Personality Psychology: Adlerian vs. Harney’s Theory

Personality psychology is an essential field of psychology since it gives an insight into the inner world of individuals. Professionals who specialize in this field contribute to an understanding of how personalities are developed, influenced, and changed over time due to various situations, characteristics, and environments. Therefore, the following paper will describe the personality theory of Alfred Adler as a concept that effectively describes personality in general and suggest its strengths and one important weakness.

Before analyzing the theory itself, it is crucial to learn more about the person who created it. Alfred Adler is a well-known philosopher and psychologist all around the world who pointed out the need to understand human personalities in specific social contexts. In his works, he was addressing such topics as parent education, equality, the impact of birth order on children’s characters, the features of individual lifestyle differences and preferences.

One of the strengths of his theory that perfectly describes the personality of individuals, in general, is that it highlights goal orientation as a central personality dynamic. The main idea is that people constantly seek growth and development, desire to achieve superiority, success, and significance (“Alfred Adler,” n.d.). In addition, in an attempt to compensate for the feeling of inferiority that comes from early childhood, individuals create a fictional goal that, if achieved, will lead to happiness and security (“Alfred Adler,” n.d.). Therefore, the idea of goal orientation perfectly describes the concept of personality because in the contemporary world everyone strives for success and the establishment of a certain reputation or status.

Another strength that helps to describe the human personality because of its high level of association with the contemporary world concerns the social context. The Adlerian theory explains that every individual lives in an invisible system that is a part of some larger systems, such as families, communities, the cosmos, and the planet (“Alfred Adler,” n.d.). In each of these environments, people have their specific roles, responsibilities, occupations, and interests which can also be defined by the general term social challenges (“Alfred Adler,” n.d.). Therefore, the type of environment human beings experience in each of these systems and the way they respond to them creates their worldview and attitude towards life.

However, there is one feature of the described personality theory that does not fully explain the personalities of individuals that live in modern society. Adler suggests that every single person desires to experience the feeling of community by belonging to a social group or having a sense of security while communicating with others (“Alfred Adler,” n.d.). Even though this point is true for many different people, others rather strive for independence. The personality theory of Karen Harney explains that these individuals have a “loner” personality and distance themselves from other human beings to avoid being dependent on someone else or experiencing abandonment (Cherry, 2019). Thus, by taking into consideration this point of the personality theory by Karen Harney, it might be possible to better explain the existence of various personality types, such as those that focus on the community and those that focus on independence.

Overall, personality psychology is an essential field that helps to identify and explore the characteristics of individuals’ inner worlds. Every personality theory has its strengths and weaknesses, by analyzing and comparing them professionals can have a possibility to explain the features of different human beings. The presented paper described 2 strengths and 1 weakness of the Adlerian theory and proposed the theory of Karen Harney that manages this weakness better.


Alfred Adler: Theory and application. (n.d.). Web.

Cherry, K. (2019). Karen Harney’s theory of neurotic needs. Web.

Harris, W. (n.d.). How the scientific method works. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Personality Psychology: Adlerian vs. Harney's Theory'. 15 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Personality Psychology: Adlerian vs. Harney's Theory." September 15, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Personality Psychology: Adlerian vs. Harney's Theory." September 15, 2023.