Adler (1956) developed a scheme of so-called personality types. These 'types' are to be taken as provisional or heuristic since he did not, in essence, believe in personality types. The danger with typology is to lose sight of the individual's uniqueness and to gaze reductively, acts that Adler opposed. Nevertheless, he intended to illustrate patterns that could denote a characteristic governed under the overall style of life. Hence American Adlerians such as Harold Mosak have made use of Adler's typology in this provisional sense:
• The Getting or Leaning types are those who selfishly take without giving back. These people also tend to be antisocial and have low activity levels.
• The Avoiding types are those that hate being defeated. They may be successful, but have not taken any risks getting there. They are likely to have low social contact in fear of rejection or defeat in any way.
• The Ruling or Dominant type strives for power and are willing to manipulate situations and people, anything to get their way. People of this type are also prone to anti-social behavior.
• The Socially Useful types are those who are very outgoing and very active. They have a lot of social contact and strive to make changes for the good.
These 'types' are typically formed in childhood and are expressions of the Style of Life.
On Birth Order
Adler often emphasized one's birth order as having an influence on the Style of Life and the strengths and weaknesses in one's psychological make up. Birth Order referred to the placement of siblings within the family. Adler believed that the firstborn child would be loved and nurtured by the family until the arrival of a second child. This second child would cause the first born to suffer feelings of dethronement, no longer being the center of attention. Adler (1956) believed that in a three-child family, the oldest child would be the most likely to suffer from neuroticism and substance addiction which he reasoned was a compensation for the feelings of excessive responsibility "the weight of the world on one's shoulders" (e.g., having to look after the younger ones) and the melancholic loss of that once supremely pampered position. As a result, he predicted that this child was the most likely to end up in jail or an asylum. Youngest children would tend to be overindulged, leading to poor social empathy. Consequently, the middle child, who would experience neither dethronement nor overindulgence, was most likely to develop into a successful individual yet also most likely to be a rebel and to feel squeezed-out. Adler himself was the second in a family of six children.
Adler never produced any scientific support for his interpretations on birth order roles. Yet the value of the hypothesis was to extend the importance of siblings in marking the psychology of the individual beyond Freud's more limited emphasis on the Mother and Father. Hence, Adlerians spend time therapeutically mapping the influence that siblings (or lack thereof) had on the psychology of their clients. The idiographic approach entails an excavation of the phenomenology of one's birth order position for likely influence on the subject's Style of Life. In sum, the subjective experiences of sibling positionality and inter-relations are psychodynamically important for Adlerian therapists and personality theorists, not the cookbook predictions that may or may not have been objectively true in Adler's time.
Adler's ideas regarding non-heterosexual sexuality and various social forms of deviance have long been controversial. Along with prostitution and criminality, Adler had classified 'homosexuals' as falling among the "failures of life". In 1917, he began his writings on homosexuality with a 52-page brochure and sporadically published more thoughts throughout the rest of his life.
The Dutch psychiatrist Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg underlines how Alfred Adler came to his conclusions for, in 1917, Adler believed that he had established a connection between homosexuality and an inferiority complex towards one's own gender. This point of view differed from Freud's theory that homosexuality is rooted in narcissism or Jung's view of inappropriate expressions of contrasexuality vis-a-vis the archetypes of the Anima and Animus.
There is evidence that Adler may have moved towards abandoning the hypothesis. Towards the end of Adler's life, in the mid 1930s, his opinion towards homosexuality began to shift. Elizabeth H. McDowell, a New York state family social worker recalls undertaking supervision with Adler on a young man who was "living in sin" with an older man in New York City. Adler asked her, "is he happy, would you say?" "Oh yes," McDowell replied. Adler then stated, "Well, why don't we leave him alone." On reflection, McDowell found this comment to contain "profound wisdom". Although, there must be some misunderstanding on Adler's answer. Adler was offering his help only to those who were asking for it in person. His therapy process could be applied only to those who feel themselves in a deadlock, fallen "at the bottom of a well" and are looking for help to get out. Even though, homosexuality was considered as one of the most difficult cases, needing long experience of the psychotherapist and not only many consequent sessions but also long time of personal work by the individual, depending on the "maturity" of his problem. Success could not be guaranteed.
According to Phyllis Bottome, who wrote Adler's Biography after Adler himself laid upon her this task: "Homosexuality he always treated as lack of courage. These were but ways of obtaining a slight release for a physical need while avoiding a greater obligation. A transient partner of your own sex is a better known road and requires less courage than a permanent contact with an "unknown" sex." (... ) "Adler taught that men cannot be judged from within by their "possessions," as he used to call nerves, glands, traumas, drives et cetera, since both judge and prisoner are liable to misconstrue what is invisible and incalculable; but that he can be judged, with no danger from introspection, by how he measures up to the three common life tasks set before every human being between the cradle and the grave. Work or employment, love or marriage, social contact."