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Anna Freud

Anna Freud

Anna Freud's (1895-1982) pioneering efforts in establishing the theory and method of child psycho analysis expanded the legacy of her father, Sigmund Freud, while it applied psychoanalytic discoveries to practical problems of child care and development in her innovative child care and study centers. As an investigator, speaker, teacher, and writer, she established a training method and body of scientific work that greatly influenced the study of children in the late twentieth century.

Anna Freud, the youngest of Sigmund Freud's six children and the only one who became a psychoanalyst, was born in Vienna in 1895. In the same year, Sigmund Freud published Studies on Hysteria, regarded as the first work of what would come to be known as psychoanalysis. From her earliest years, she identified closely with her father. Freud's mother was more attached to the other children, however, and the youngest daughter seems to have envied her beautiful older sister Sophie. Throughout her life, Freud had a difficult and distant relationship with her mother, who was famously skeptical of psychoanalysis. The elder Freud later praised her intellectual interests, but he did not send her to schools that could prepare her for university. Instead she was sent to the Cottage Lyceum, a school for teachers.

In 1914, Freud was visiting England when World War I broke out. Helped by friends in the diplomatic community, she returned to Austria where, stimulated by the ideas of Maria Montessori, she began her career as an elementary school teacher. She taught in her old school during the war, but abandoned teaching soon afterwards to begin working more closely with her father. She briefly considered becoming a doctor but was dissuaded by him.

Freud increasingly assumed a role as her father's assistant, secretary, and proponent. In 1918, she entered analysis with the elder Freud. That same year she attended her first meeting of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. She became immersed in the development of psychoanalysis and began attending psychoanalytic meetings, translating papers, and analyzing patients. In 1922, she delivered her first paper to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and soon afterwards was accepted as a member.

The period from the mid-1920s to 1938, when the Freuds were forced by the Nazi occupation of Austria to leave Vienna, was a period of rich intellectual activity and rapid development in psychoanalytic thought. Freud's first patients were adults, but she soon began treating children. Her work as a teacher served as a bridge to what was emerging as her life's work—the psychoanalytic study of the child. Her interest in working with the Berlin Clinic promised to grant her a degree of independence from her father, but she decided to remain in Vienna after her father narrowly escaped bleeding to death after outpatient surgery. In 1923, he was diagnosed with cancer and from then on Freud became his primary caretaker, secretary, and intellectual companion. In that year she also established her own private practice. During this time she also assumed increasingly responsible positions in the leadership of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and the International Psychoanalytic Association.

In 1925, she met Dorothy Burlingham, who had brought her children to Vienna for analytic treatment. Their friendship eventually deepened into a lifelong bond. During this time she also began a private analytically-oriented nursery school together with several other analysts, and also set up what is now regarded as the first modern day care center for underprivileged infants. The city of Vienna asked her in 1926 to train nursery workers and elementary teachers in applying the new analytic knowledge to education theory. That year she delivered four lectures, published as An Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis, which marked the recognition of child analysis as a legitimate sub-specialty. In 1929, she first warned childcare professionals against mistaking professional child care for mothering. Throughout her career, Freud continued to stress that child care and analysis itself cannot substitute for the early parental attachments which shape personality development.

The elder Freud defended his daughter against the differing views of Melanie Klein and others and came to admire her intellectual independence. In 1931, she became editor of the Journal of Psychoanalytical Education, a forerunner of The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. By the early 1930s, however, opposition to Freud's ideas was growing among extremists in the Nazi Party in Germany, and in 1933 his books were burned in Berlin.

Her efforts at this time to define normal child development led her to expand on her father's ego theory in her influential work The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, published in 1936. The principal defense mechanism, she claimed, is repression, which develops as children learn that some impulses are harmful and cannot be acted upon. Child analysis was the best means, she believed, for examining the functions of the ego and the instinctual drives, since children respond to their own internal pressures and the demands of the external world with a wider and more creative range of defenses than do adults. Considered a classic, this work contained one of the first comprehensive examinations of the conflicts of adolescence and outlined her views of the structure and unity of the human personality.

In 1938, after Freud was interrogated by the Nazi Gestapo in Vienna, the family emigrated to England. In England, Freud went back to seeing patients and founded a nursery at her family's house for children who had been separated from their parents by the war. The Hampstead Wartime Nursery for Homeless Children provided a natural laboratory for Freud's views on the influence of parental separation on childhood development. In two books and a series of reports collected as Infants Without Families, Freud and Burlingham, who also had become an analyst, outlined a program of service and research to prevent further harm to the children, conduct research on the fundamental needs of children, and develop an ideal nursery environment that could provide a model for peacetime education. A fundamental conclusion from these works was that separation from family could have a more detrimental effect than the war itself.

Freud consistently sought to apply the theories of psychoanalysis to the practical problems of children. The children of the war nurseries included the blind, handicapped, and deprived as well as those troubled by minor problems. Her observations convinced her of the importance of the parental bond to both normal and abnormal childhood development. The immediate effect of the nurseries was to shift childcare policy in favor of supporting children in their families rather than sending them away to institutions. She also initiated a form of core training for the war nurseries staff.

Others were also applying psychoanalysis to the treatment of children at this time, but a number of major differences soon emerged after Freud's arrival in England. A lifelong rift developed in the British Psychanalytic Society between Freud and Melanie Klein, who believed that techniques could be equally applied to children and adults. Freud held, however, that analysis of children must make allowances for children's unique developmental stages and fluid individuality. She believed in a reality-based and practical application of educational devices for both parents and children. She also disagreed that child analysis was beneficial to all children, and she objected to over-interpretation of children's movement and expression in play as signs of underlying conflict. Freud argued instead that a wide range of behavior could be considered "normal" and relied, more heavily than her counterparts, on direct observation and on the clues provided by children's drawings, play, and daydreams.

Like her father, Freud believed that analysis was essentially a talking cure, and children could not therefore be analyzed until they could talk. Children cannot be trusted to control the impulses set free by analysis, she argued; they must be controlled by the parents or by the analyst acting as "auxiliary ego." Child analysis, Freud concluded, aims to strike a balance between freeing and restricting the child's impulses in the process of educating them. And no therapy of children can succeed without parental support. With her practical focus and humanistic outlook, Freud played a major part in maintaining unity among British psychoanalysts who often held widely differing points of view.

The nurseries were succeeded in 1947 by the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic, which she founded with a number of other prominent analysts. It would become the world's largest and most comprehensive child analytic training and treatment center. It provided analytic therapy, counseling, and a renowned training course for many American child psychologists and other practitioners and served as a model for similar centers throughout the world. For the next 40 years, Freud served as a training analyst, supervisor, and consultant to the clinic while speaking internationally and publishing on a wide variety of subjects. Freud continued her collaborations with pediatricians, social workers, and teachers, combining models of service to children with rigorous scientific investigation.

In the early 1960s, Freud began a collaboration with the Yale Child Study Center, contributing to seminars on family law and child placement conflicts. In the resulting books, Freud argued that the child's perspective must be paramount in determining child care decisions and that the "least detrimental alternative" should be pursued that will allow the child to maintain a stable parental relationship. She also argued for minimizing the state's intrusion into family life. In her final years, she extended this work to examining the uses and misuses of experts in resolving custody and placement conflicts.

In her final years, Freud believed the future of psychoanalysis lay in examining each developmental path that led to adulthood. Instead of seeking the origin of disturbances in earliest life, she proposed a number of "developmental lines" of normal development in which disturbance could occur. Psychic disturbance, she believed, may have many origins and take forms in childhood and adulthood which are not necessarily causally related or even similar. A later major work, Normality and Pathology in Childhood, focused on assessing childhood developmental stages and establishing norms for childhood development.

Freud came to believe that modern analysis had wrongly shifted attention from unearthing repressed past childhood experiences to dealing solely with the patient's present relations with the therapist. She also disagreed with the modern shift from a father-centered to mother-centered approach. When asked about her views on the subject of mothering, Freud replied that she had never written of mother-daughter relations because she knew nothing about them. A striking irony of her life was that she never married or had children of her own; and in spite of her lifelong dedication to the care of children, she refused to be identified as a universal mother figure.

Although Freud never acquired advanced academic degrees, her accomplishments were widely recognized in the many honorary degrees awarded her in England, Europe, and the United States. As the last link to the origins of psychoanalysis, she embraced her father's ideas while forging her own theories of normal and abnormal child development and psychology and creating a coherent therapeutic technique. Freud suffered a stroke in 1982 and died later that year. Clifford Yorke, a fellow psychoanalyst, wrote that her death "brought to a close the distinguished career of one of the great scientific leaders of our time, and one whose impact and influence will continue to be felt as long as a science of the mind survives."

Further Reading

Coles, Robert, Anna Freud: The Dream of Psychoanalysis, Addison-Wesley, 1991.

Freud, Anna, Writings of Anna Freud [8 volumes], International Universities Press, 1964-1980

Peters, Uwe H., Anna Freud: A Life Dedicated to Children, Schocken Books, 1985.

Sayer, Janet, Mothers of Psychoanalysis: Helene Deutch, Karen Horney, Anna Freud, and Melanie Klein, Norton, 1991.

Young-Bruehl, Elizabeth, Anna Freud: A Biography, Norton, 1994.

Women in Psychology: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book, edited by Agnes N. O'Connell and Nancy F. Russo, Greenwood, 1990.

American Journal of Psychiatry, December 1983, p. 1632; May 1995, p. 784.

American Psychologist, February 1985, p. 230.

Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatrists, 1984, p. 233

London Times, October 11, 1982, p. 12.

Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1984, p. 31.

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Freud, Anna (1895-1982)

FREUD, ANNA (1895-1982)

Psychoanalyst and pioneer in child analysis, Anna Freud was born on December 3, 1895, in Vienna, and died on October 9, 1982, in London.

Anna Freud was Sigmund and Martha Freud's third daughter and sixth and last child. When she was a year old, Martha's sister Minna joined the family. The two women had carefully defined roles, but a warm and affectionate Catholic nursemaid, Josefine Cihlarz, to whom Anna felt very close, took a very active part in the upbringing of the three youngest children. The children were treated leniently but firmly: disciplined behavior and punctuality were emphasized and expected. Anna Freud displayed these traits throughout her life. Her love of animals may, in part, have reflected Josefine's influence.

She started elementary school at six, and at ten entered the Salka Goldman Cottage Lyceum for girls. She read widely and wrote poetry. Her remarkable memory was a major asset at school and throughout her life; later, as a psychoanalyst, she never forgot the details of any case reported to her, and could make telling use of them in clinical discussion.

She was on holiday in England when war broke out in 1914. Now an enemy alien, she managed to return to Austria with the Ambassador and his entourage, traveling by an adventurous route. She trained as an elementary school teacher at the Lyceum, and her industry and rare intelligence ensured her appointment to the teaching staff.

She was always a wonderful teacher, but her interest in psychoanalysis was evident in early adolescence. She became Librarian of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Association, and was analyzed by her fatherunthinkable perhaps nowadays, but not such a rare event at this time. She read her first paper (on beating fantasies) to the Association in 1922, and was thereby granted membership.

Her teaching experience served her well as a pioneer in child analysis. Melanie Klein was already analyzing children in Berlin; but the two leaders in the field used children's play differently in their techniques. Anna Freud disputed Klein's belief that play was the child's equivalent of free association in adults, but this was only one of many later differences. Klein went to England in 1927 and became a powerful influence in the British Society. Disparities of view between the Viennese and British Societies became pronounced, initially on the basis of child analytic practice.

Anna Freud's new ideas, charm, and lifelong capacity for winning collaborators quickly secured her a large following. Her seminars in Vienna attracted colleagues from Prague and Budapest. A wide range of disorders were treated and discussed, but Anna Freud's attention to normal development matched her interest in pathology. She believed it was impossible to understand the one without the other. She applied her growing knowledge to the field of education and gave lectures to teachers and parents. With her friend and colleague Dorothy Burlingham, she set up what she called "a cross between a crèche and a nursery school," financed by the wealthy psychoanalyst Edith Jackson, for the poorest children in Vienna who were given both bodily and psychological care. These experiences fuelled Anna Freud's interest in the psychological consequences and concomitants of physical illness and laid a foundation for her interest in pediatric practice.

Her work with adults fostered her need to know more about psychiatry and she attended, on a regular basis, ward-rounds at the University's Psychiatric Clinic, headed by Wagner-Jauregg, the Nobel Prize winner, and staffed by Paul Schilder and Heinz Hartmann. She retained this interest for the rest of her life.

Earlier publications were followed by her first book in 1936, appearing one year later in English as The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence. This major work was the first to distinguish between recognized defenses against instinctual drive derivatives and defenses against painful affects, newly observed and described by her.

The Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, and Princess Marie Bonaparte and Ernest Jones together secured safe transfer to London for the Freud family and a number of associates. Freud, Anna, and other psychoanalysts were admitted to the British Psycho-Analytical Society. Though well received, clinical and theoretical differences between the two groups were pronounced and culminated in a series of controversial discussions between 1941 and 1945. The disagreements were beyond resolution, and two parallel training courses were set up in recognition of this fact.

Freud died in 1939 from the cancer of the jaw that had plagued him for fourteen years, and Anna Freud was his devoted nurse. She continued to support the principles behind his psychoanalytic thinking, but she had a highly original mind and never followed him slavishly. After the outbreak of war, the predicament of children made homeless through bombing led her to establish, with Dorothy Burlingham, the Hampstead War Nurseries. Careful observations and meticulous records, made with the help of staff who rarely left the premises, vastly increased existing knowledge of child development and problems of residential care. The findings are collected by Anna and Dorothy in Young Children In Wartime (1942) and Infants Without Families (1944).

In 1947 Anna Freud founded a course in child analysis, and in 1952 established the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic. With these unequalled facilities clinical research expanded substantially. In this Anna Freud's charm and authority served her unsurpassed capacity to draw staff and students into the work and make substantial contributions. She herself continued to publish major papers, but her most important book was Normality and Pathology of Childhood (1965). Her writing continued apace, with major contributions to psychoanalytic diagnosis and to clinical and theoretical understanding of a wide range of developmental problems and disturbances. Her work in the fields of education, pediatrics, and family law (Beyond the Best Interests of the Child ), in which she collaborated with Professors Albert J. Solnit and Joseph Goldstein from Yale University, won her wide recognition within those disciplines. She received many honors and was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1967. Of her many honorary degrees, she was especially proud of the MD from the University of Vienna (1975) and the PhD from the Goethe Institute in Frankfurt (1981) where, half a century earlier, her father had been awarded the Goethe prize for literature.

By this time Anna Freud was seriously ill with an advanced anemia of old age, but her mind remained clear and active throughout the slow physical deterioration that led to her death. Her ashes were placed next to her father's at Golders Green crematorium in London.

Clifford Yorke

Work discussed: Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence, The.

See also: Abandonment; Adaptation; Adolescent crisis; Altruism; Andreas-Salomé, Louise (Lou); Austria; Berggasse 19, Wien IX; British Psycho-Analytical Society; Burlingham-Rosenfeld/Hietzing Schule; Burlingham-Tiffany, Dorothy; Childhood; Children's play; Child psychoanalysis; Controversial Discussions; Defense; Ego (ego psychology); Externalization-internalization; First World War: The effect on the development of psychoanalysis; Freud-Bernays, Martha; Freud Museum; Freud, the Secret Passion ; Lay analysis; Gesammelte Schriften ; Gesammelte Werke ; Gestapo; Goethe (prize); Great Britain; Hampstead Clinic; Hogarth Press; Identification with the aggressor; Imago. Zeitschrift für die Anwendung der Psychoanalyse auf die Geisteswissenschaften ; Infantile neurosis; Lehrinstitut der Wiener psychoanalytischen Vereinigung; Masochism; Negative transference; Neutrality/benevolent neutrality; Phobias in children; Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The ; Second World War: The effect on the development of psychoanalysis; Sigmund Freud Archives; Sigmund Freud Copyrights Limited; Sigmund Freud Museum; Splits in psychoanalysis; Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud ; Telepathy; Transference in children; Unconscious fantasy; Wiener psychoanalytische Vereinigung.


Freud, Anna. (1936). Collected writings. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1968). Acting out. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49.

. (1977). Fears, anxieties, and phobic phenomena. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 32, 85-90.

. (1979). Personal memories of Ernest Jones. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60, 285-287.

. (1980). Introduction. In Sigmund Freud: The analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer.

. (1981). Insight. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 36, 241-250.

Goldstein, Joseph; Freud, Anna; and Solnit, Albert J. (1973). Beyond the best interests of the child. New York: The Free Press.

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Freud, Anna (1895–1982)

Freud, Anna (18951982)

Anna Freud, the youngest child of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was born and raised in Vienna, Austria, where she trained as an elementary school teacher and psychoanalyst. After being psychoanalyzed by her father, she became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1922. Freud never married; she lived with a lifelong companion: the American Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, whose children she psychoanalyzed. She worked as her father's scientific and administrative guardian, and she also made significant contributions to the technique of child analysis, theories of child development, and ego psychology.

Anna Freud published the first book on child psychoanalysis in 1926. Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis combined her pedagogical experience with psychoanalytical insight and described an approach aimed at strengthening the child's ego. The book also criticized the techniques of British child analyst Melanie Klein. Freud saw Klein's methods as a dangerous probing of the child's unconscious fantasy life; this criticism led to a 1927 debate between Freud and Klein about child analysis. Freud's The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense appeared in 1936. This classic work systematically explained her father's concept of the ego and forged her reputation as a pioneer of ego psychology, a theory which dominated American psychoanalysis throughout the second half of the twentieth century.

Through the late 1920s and the 1930s, Freud served as Secretary of the International Psychoanalytical Association and Chair of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. When Germany invaded Austria in 1938, the Freud family emigrated to London and Anna Freud became a member of the British Psychoanalytical Society. There she participated in a second debate with Klein and her followers about whether Klein's ideas were truly Freudian. These controversial discussions ended with the organization of separate Freudian and Kleinian training programs within the society.

Freud set up the Hampstead War Nurseries in 1940, where she conducted observational research on orphaned children described in her 1944 book Infants Without Families: The Case For and Against Residential Nurseries. The nurseries closed in 1945 but later were reincarnated as the renowned Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic, posthumously renamed The Anna Freud Center for the Psychoanalytic Study and Treatment of Children. Over the next few decades Freud analyzed many young patients, trained future child analysts, and focused her research on developing ways to assess the relative normality or pathology of children at different ages, which she published in her 1965 work Normality and Pathology in Childhood.

Freud's later work also involved the practical application of psychoanalysis to problems in education and child welfare, and she lectured to public audiences on diverse topics ranging from child-rearing to family law. In 1961 she joined the faculty of Yale Law School as Senior Fellow and Visiting Lecturer. She collaborated with Yale colleagues Joseph Goldstein and Albert Solnit on the influential 1973 book Beyond the Best Interests of the Child. Followed by two similar volumes, this book helped establish social and legal rights for children in America.

Anna Freud continued to research and lecture until she died from the effects of a stroke in 1982. Her papers were placed with the Freud Archives in the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.

See also: Age and Development; Child Development, History of the Concept of; Child Psychology.


King, Pearl, and Ricardo Steiner, eds. 1991. The Freud-Klein Controversies 19411945. London: Routledge.

Sandler, Joseph, and Anna Freud. 1980. The Technique of Child Psychoanalysis: Discussions with Anna Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sandler, Joseph, and Anna Freud. 1985. The Analysis of Defense: The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense Revisited. New York: International Universities Press.

Young-Bruehl, Elizabeth. 1988. Anna Freud: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Gail Donaldson

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Freud, Anna

Anna Freud

Austrian psychoanalyst and pioneer in the field of child psychoanalysis; daughter of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

A seminal figure in the field of child psychoanalysis and development, Anna Freud was born in Vienna, Austria, the youngest child of Sigmund Freud . She was educated at private schools in Vienna, and at age 19 began two years of study to become a teacher. As the youngest of six children, she became her father's lifelong traveling companion and student. When Freud was 23 years old, she underwent psychoanalysis, with her father as analyst. Despite the fact that psychoanalysis at that timeand until around the mid-1920swas less formal than it has become, it was nonetheless unusual for a child to become the patient, or analysand, of a parent.

Anna Freud's own interest was in children and their development. Influenced by her father's psychoanalytic theories, she believed that children experience a series of stages of normal psychological development. She also felt strongly that, in order to work with children, psycho-analysts

need a thorough understanding of these stages, knowledge she believed was best acquired through direct observation of children. With Dorothy Burlingham, Freud founded a nursery school for poor children in Vienna, becoming an international leader in treating children's mental illnesses. Freud turned her attention to the study of the ego , especially in adolescence , publishing The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936) in honor of her father's 80th birthday.

After the Nazis took control in Austria in 1938, the Freuds emigrated to London, England, where Sigmund Freud died a year later. In 1947, Freud and Burlingham established the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic in London, which provided training opportunities for individuals interested in the psychological and emotional development of children. From the 1950s until her death, psychoanalysts, child psychologists, and teachers worldwide sought opportunities to hear Freud lecture, and to benefit from the insights she developed from a lifetime of working with children. Freud's other writings include The Psychoanalytical Treatment of Children (1946), Normality and Pathology in Childhood (1965), and the seven-volume Writings of Anna Freud (1973).

Further Reading

Coles, Robert. Anna Freud: The Dream of Psychoanalysis. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1992.

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Freud, Anna

Anna Freud (froid), 1895–1982, British psychoanalyst, b. Vienna, Austria. Continuing the work of her father, Sigmund Freud, she was a pioneer in the psychoanalysis of children. She received her training in Vienna before emigrating (1938) with her father to England, where she founded and directed a clinic for child therapy. In an influential 1937 work, she argued that the ego had an active role in resolving conflict and tension. Other psychoanalysts, including Heinz Hartmann and Erik Erikson, advanced her ideas in their own work. Her writings include Normality and Pathology in Childhood (1965) and The Writings of Anna Freud (7 vol., 1973).

See biographies by E. Young-Bruehl (1988) and R. Coles (1992); study by S. Stewart-Steinberg (2011).

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Freud, Anna

Freud, Anna (1895–1982) British psychotherapist, b. Austria, youngest of Sigmund Freud's children. She applied psychoanalysis to the development of children, was an early exponent of play therapy, and wrote a number of books, including Normality and Pathology in Childhood (1968).

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