Origins of Social Interest

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Social interest is rooted as potentiality in everyone, but it must be developed before it can contribute to a useful style of life. It originates from the mother-child relationship during the early months of infancy. Every person who has survived infancy was kept alive by a mothering person who possessed some amount of social mterest. Thus, every person lias had the seeds of social interest sown during those early months.

Adler believed that marriage and parenthood is a task for two. However, the two parents may influence a child's social mterest in somewhat different ways. The mother's job is to develop a bond that encourages the child's mature social interest and fosters a sense of cooperation. Ideally, she should have a genuine and deep-rooted love for her child—a love that is centered on the child's well-being, not on her own needs or wants. This healthy love relationship develops from a true carhig for her child, her husband, and other people. If the mother has learned to give and receive love from others, she will have little difficulty broadening her child's social interest. But if she favors the child over the father, her child may become pampered and spoiled. Conversely, if she favors her husband or society, the child will feel neglected and unloved.

The father is a second important person hi a child's social environment. He must demonstrate a caring attitude toward his wife as well as to other people. The ideal father cooperates on an equal footing with the child's mother in caring for the child and treating the child as a human behig. According to Adler's (1956) standards, a successful father avoids the dual errors of emotional detachment and paternal au-

Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 77

thoritarianism. These errors may represent two attitudes, but they are often found hi the same father. Both prevent the growth and spread of social hiterest hi a child. A father's emotional detachment may influence the child to develop a warped sense of social hiterest, a feeling of neglect, and possibly a parasitic attachment to the mother. A child who experiences paternal detachment creates a goal of personal superiority rather than one based on social interest. The second error—paternal authoritarianism—may also lead to an unhealthy style of life. A child who sees the father as a tyrant learns to strive for power and personal superiority.

Adler (1956) believed that the effects of the early social environment are extremely important. The relationship a child has with the mother and father is so powerful that it smothers the effects of heredity. Adler believed that after age 5, the effects of heredity become blurred by the powerful influence of the child's social environment. By that time, environmental forces have modified or shaped nearly every aspect of a child's personality.

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