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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 time—and until around the mid-1920s—was 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

Anna Freud (AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced with permission.)

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.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists