Analysis of Researches Focused on Parent Education, Birth Order Impact, Inferiority, Mental Health, and Personality

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Conceived in 1870, Alfred Adler was an esteemed psychiatrist and philosopher responsible for developments in individual psychology. Adler had a difficult childhood mainly due to witnessing his brother’s death and experiencing health issues that motivated his interest to become a physician. His research focused on aspects of human existence including parent education, birth order impact, inferiority, mental health, and personality. After receiving his degree in 1985, Adler specialized in psychiatry and rallied behind Sigmund Freud and his ideologies on the personality theory. He would later part ways with his mentor after a disagreement on the impact of sex on personality. Adler proceeded to take his own approach on personality. The following paper takes a real-world approach to Alfred Adler’s theories of personality by analyzing a close female friend named Stella.

Stella is a 33-year-old lawyer and single mother of one. Having been brought up in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, Stella’s exposure to violence, specifically domestic violence was due to the violent and abusive nature of her biological father who also struggled with alcohol addiction. Stella’s mother has always been a pillar of strength during her childhood, continuously encouraging her to do her best in school to avoid dependency on anyone in the future. She is the first-born, but after the separation of her parents when she was 5 years old, Stella’s mother remarried three years later and had three other children by Stella’s step-father. Although her family was not wealthy, her mother brought in income from a waitress job and her step-father made money as a taxi driver. After having her youngest child, Stella’s mother had been temporarily out of work which took a toll on the family and her marriage, resulting in a few incidents of domestic violence. She played an instrumental role in bringing up her younger siblings. Evidently, the family’s lifestyle was far from lavish since her mother and stepfather could only afford to provide their four children with basic needs.

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Stella is an extremely responsible and observant mother. Most of Stella’s friends and family refer to her as a dependable person especially in times of need. Despite her good qualities, Stella struggles with a temper that overcomes her on certain incidents. Her main goals in life include becoming a partner at her law firm and establishing a stable home for herself and her 5-year-old daughter. Additionally, Stella also intends to ensure her younger siblings go to college and pursue their dreams which she believes is the most certain way out of poverty. As a self-proclaimed feminist who believes that a woman can accomplish anything on their own, she also tries to indoctrinate the same ideologies in her daughter. Stella also has a particularly strong work ethic; something her current boss was able to quickly identify during her internship at the firm which led to her current employment. Her worst fear is failing and she dreads becoming mediocre specifically in her career and as a parent.

The concept of striving for perfection implies that every human being is driven by a need to reach their full potential. While some are able to do so, Adler also expresses that we are hindered by an inferiority complex. Kenchappanavar (2012) states that,

According to Adler [2], Inferiority complex arises when a person finds himself in a situation where his abilities and attitudes are denigrated or rejected by other people [3]. Inferiority complex is a magnification of natural feelings of inferiority and results when strivings to overcome inferiority are greatly hindered. Anything in the individual that is below the average, that provokes unfavourable comment or gives him a feeling of impotency or ineptitude leads to inferiority complex. (p. 1)

Adler argued that a person’s personality begins to form at a very early age, whereby the life of a person starts as a child and continues to strive to achieve superiority well into adulthood. Adler further explained that children also feel psychologically inferior owing to the pressure that accompanies the school going age when most children get criticized based on their mental, social and physical shortcomings. While some children are able to overcome these feelings by developing self-esteem, others continue to struggle with inferiority for a long time. Stella’s case largely supports Adler’s theory of achieving superiority on a number of levels. First, her life began as the only daughter of an abusive father which in itself proved to be a source of weakness because she was unable to protect her mother from physical and emotional trauma. This would explain her feminist nature and her determination to protect herself and her daughter from any from abusive relationships, having walked out on a number of relationships that she felt were unhealthy. Adler’s ideas also demonstrate Stella’s motivation toward achieving academic excellence which aided her in achieving her dreams of becoming an attorney. Based on some of Stella’s life choices and motivations it would be permissible to purport that Adler’s theory holds weight to some degree.

One of Stella’s most striking traits is her ability to be particularly dependable and consistent with her loved ones and colleagues. Stella is the first born out of four children, it would be sensible to include Adler’s birth order theory as a justification for some of her characteristics. Being her mother’s eldest child, it was Stella’s duty to take care of her younger siblings. Her dependable and consistent nature dates back to the circumstances of her childhood and teenage years when she may have felt responsible for the wellbeing of her mother and siblings. This also explains her devotion to her own daughter whom she clearly wishes to protect the same way she protected her younger siblings. Stella’s conservative nature is the true reflection of her earlier life which exposed her to adult issues at a very tender age, leading her down a path of cautiousness. Adler also suggests that the firstborn most often becomes extremely conscientious which explains Stella’s strong work ethic and academic background. Her inclination toward perfectionism is exhibited through her life goals which include dominating her career path. Her need to have her siblings follow in her academic footsteps also speaks to her need for perfectionism and her inclination toward intellect. With the younger siblings looking up to her, Stella’s struggle for superiority in various aspects of her life can be seen as way for her to set a good example for her younger siblings. Promptly walking out of abusive relationships could also be viewed as her own intuitive way of setting a proper example for her younger sister and her daughter. As far as Stella’s case goes, Adler’s birth order philosophy seems to have heavily influenced her personality and most of her life choices.

Adlerians base their work on the supposition that patients will feel better once they reveal and correct their mistakes. Aslinia, Rasheed, and Simpson (2011) express in the text,

From an Adlerian perspective, understanding a client’s subjective and unique experience is essential. Attending to the uniqueness of the client means investigating the client’s views, thoughts, and values, which might be different from the counselor or the dominant culture. It is only through such investigation that a counselor can begin guiding his or her client based on the client’s needs and capabilities. (p. 3)

In Stella’s case, she is influenced by her family dynamic. Adlerian therapy consists of making an evaluation of the client’s functioning. The therapists can accumulate data on the individual’s style of living by analyzing the client’s family constellation, which incorporates parents, siblings, and others living in the home and considering early recollections. During this assessment, birth order can also be evaluated. Once the information gathered is interpreted the therapist can get a perspective on the areas Stella showcases success and failure, how she achieves life goals, and the influences that have an impact on the role she has accepted in the world. This can include the role of culture. The therapist can also utilize her early memories as a technique during the assessment. Early memories are characterized as accounts of events that an individual state happened at a young age. According to Ansbacher (1973), “One of Adler's first statements on recollections was: 'A person's true attitude toward life can be discerned from his earliest dreams and recollected experiences, proving that such memories are also constructed according to a planful procedure. (p. 136)” Reliving these explicit occurrences can bring up the underlying emotions and thoughts that were manifested during these incidents which can help with the healing process.

In contrast to the ideas of Adler, Freud categorizes the structure of personality into three categories labeled as the unconscious, the preconscious and the conscious. Ahmed (2012) conveys,

In Freud’s view this unconscious level of mind is the source of man’s motivations such as desires for sex, food and so on, (Rahim, 2002). Furthermore, Freudian psychology is largely based on objects that are guided by needs; hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain and sex. According to Freud, among the objects organism is the prime one whose important part is nervous system which is known as id at beginning. This id transforms the needs of organism into motivational forces which Freud called wishes. (p. 61)

Freud would disagree with Adler in terms of the motivating factors behind Stella’s current behavior. Freud believes that human behavior is motivated by instincts which are powerful forces that drive our actions and behavior. In Stella’s case, Freud would propose that in order to avoid the pain she was driven by her instincts and decided to become the best version of herself. On the other hand, Adler does not believe that personality has a specific structure. Additionally, Adler does not agree with Freud and Jung that the majority of our personality is embedded within the unconscious, he believes that the thoughts and behaviors stored in the unconscious are things that we wish to avoid or do not understand. In results, Adler believes the conscious and the unconscious work hand in hand. I do not agree with Freud’s ideas in the case of Stella because it seems that her environment at home played a role in shaping her personality. Freud does not place emphasis on societal factors and mostly focuses on the individual.

According to Ernst and Angst (1983), most adults believe from an early age that the birth order position assigned to them inevitably predisposes them to certain career paths and personality types. Studies have also revealed that first-born children are more likely to pursue more prestigious career paths in an effort to maintain their parents’ approval, having been dethroned by their younger siblings at an early age. Additionally, further research reveals that firstborns are also prone to high levels of anxiety in stressful situations. This often causes them to overcompensate in different ways owing to the high levels perceived responsibility to always be the best (Aldous, 1996). According to Leman (2009), most children begin to exhibit certain personality traits between the ages of 5 and 8 as a result of family and environmental circumstances. While firstborns take a supportive stance toward authority by helping their parents from a young age, lastborn are habitually rebellious and prone to taking unnecessary risks, unlike the predominantly conservative firstborns.

There is a possibility that Stella’s behavior can be due to being the first-born but research has debunked the birth-order theory which would change our understanding of Adler’s work. More recent research shows that birth-order has less of an effect on personality than previous scientific theories have shown. For example, Julia M. Rohrer, Boris Egloff, and Stefan C. Schmukle conducted a study in 2015 to determine effects of birth order on certain personality traits like extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, or imagination. Julia M. Rohrer, Boris Egloff, and Stefan C. Schmukle (2015) concluded,

They did not find any effect of birth order on extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, or imagination, a subdimension of openness. There was a small, but significant, decline in self-reported intellect, a second

subdimension of openness. The effect on intellect persisted after controlling for IQ scores, indicating that there is a genuine birth-order effect on intellect that goes beyond objectively measured intelligence and can be observed in adults. Zajonc and Markus (7) proposed that older siblings profit intellectually from being “teachers” to their younger siblings—a process that might also account for differences in intellectual self-concept and -estimation when children internalize their roles as “teachers” or “students.”

Individuals do love to sort themselves into classifications regardless of whether they're logically solid or not. Any thought that has pervaded culture as much as birth order will undoubtedly affect how individuals see themselves. Possibly the generalizations about birth order have more to do with how individuals contrast themselves to their siblings than how they actually are.

Based on the literature accumulated by Adler’s field of individual psychology her inclination toward academic excellence is an indication of her strives toward a better life for herself and her family, which is a responsibility placed on her shoulder on account of her position in the birth order. Her over protectiveness toward her daughter is as a result of the tough circumstances she and her siblings endured. Stella’s love of comedy television and film could be as a result of her troubled childhood which she escaped by watching television. Stella’s reliable nature may have developed from early childhood experiences when she would frequently lend a helping hand to her parent and her siblings. Stella’s feminist ideologies and strong work ethic can be accredited to her upbringing. While her mother’s hard work and encouragement influenced her academic drive, she also derived immense motivation from her desire to escape poverty and male dominance by cultivating her own career path.

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Analysis of Researches Focused on Parent Education, Birth Order Impact, Inferiority, Mental Health, and Personality. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-researches-focused-on-parent-education-birth-order-impact-inferiority-mental-health-and-personality/
“Analysis of Researches Focused on Parent Education, Birth Order Impact, Inferiority, Mental Health, and Personality.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-researches-focused-on-parent-education-birth-order-impact-inferiority-mental-health-and-personality/
Analysis of Researches Focused on Parent Education, Birth Order Impact, Inferiority, Mental Health, and Personality. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-researches-focused-on-parent-education-birth-order-impact-inferiority-mental-health-and-personality/> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Analysis of Researches Focused on Parent Education, Birth Order Impact, Inferiority, Mental Health, and Personality [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-researches-focused-on-parent-education-birth-order-impact-inferiority-mental-health-and-personality/
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