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Karen Horney

German-born American psychoanalyst who was among the leading theorists of psychoanalysis in the United States, and cofounder of the American Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Karen Horney (Corbis-Bettmann. Reproduced with permission.)

Karen Horney was born in Hamburg, Germany, and educated at the University of Berlin and the University of Freiberg. She emigrated to the United States in 1932, after having taught for two years at the Berlin Institute of Psychoanalysis. From 1932-34, she was assistant director of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis; she then left for New York City. In 1935, she was elected to the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Horney believed that personality is significantly affected by the unconscious mind, but she also theorized that both interpersonal relationships and societal factors were key factors contributing to mental development. She became increasingly outspoken in her disagreements with the theories developed by Sigmund Freud on the nature of neuroses and personality. Where Freud advanced a biological basis for neuroses, Horney believed that the environment of childhood played a key role in personality development. She felt strongly that negative experiences in early childhood could trigger anxiety in adulthood. In 1936, Horney published her first book, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, a highly readable work. This was followed in 1939 by New Ways in Psychoanalysis, and Self Analysis in 1942.

In 1942, Horney cofounded the American Institute for Psychoanalysis. She is best known for broadening the perspective of psychoanalysis to consider childhood, environment, and interpersonal relationship. In 1955, three years after her death, the Karen Horney Clinic was established in New York City in her honor. The Clinic provides psychoanalysis and training for analysts.

Further Reading

Rolka, Gail Meyer. 100 Women Who Shaped World History. San Francisco: Bluewood Books, 1994.

Sayers, Janet. Mothers of Psychoanalysis. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists