Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 93

to have a causal effect. Whether the recalled experiences correspond with objective
reality or are complete fantasies is of no importance. People reconstruct the events
to make them consistent with a theme or pattern that runs throughout their lives.
Adler (1929/1969, 1931) insisted that early recollections are always consistent
with people’s present style of life and that their subjective account of these experiences
yields clues to understanding both their final goal and their present style of life. One
of Adler’s earliest recollections was of the great contrast between his brother Sigmund’s
good health and his own sickly condition. As an adult, Adler reported that

One of my earliest recollections is of sitting on a beach... bandaged up on
account of rickets, with my healthier elder brother sitting opposite me. He could
run, jump, and move about quite effortlessly, while for me movement of any sort
was a strain.... Everyone went to great pains to help me. (Bottome, 1957, p. 30)
If Adler’s assumption that early recollections are a valid indicator of a per-
son’s style of life, then this memory should yield clues about Adler’s adult style


Adler’s View of Some Possible Traits by Birth Order

Positive Traits Negative Traits
Oldest Child

Second Child

Highly anxious
Exaggerated feelings of power
Unconscious hostility
Fights for acceptance
Must always be “right,” whereas
others are always “wrong”
Highly critical of others

Nurturing and protective of others
Good organizer

Highly motivated
Moderately competitive

Highly competitive
Easily discouraged

Realistically ambitious Pampered style of life
Dependent on others
Wants to excel in everything
Unrealistically ambitious

Socially mature Exaggerated feelings of superiority
Low feelings of cooperation
Inflated sense of self
Pampered style of life

Youngest Child

Only Child
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