Freud, Anna (1895–1982)

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 1941–1945. 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.