Anna Freud: Biography and Work

Anna Freud (Vienna, December 3, 1895-London, October 9, 1982) was an Austrian psychoanalyst who focused her research on child psychology.

She was the youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud And Martha Bernays, being the only daughter of the father of psychoanalysis who followed in his footsteps. He was born on 3 December 1895 in Vienna, Austria and died on 9 October 1982 when he was 86 years old.


Anna devoted her entire life to the study of child psychology, trying to understand what was in the minds of children.

Her specialization may have been influenced by her own life story since the psychoanalyst did not have a very happy childhood. Since childhood, she has had a hard time in the world and even in her own family.

The first years of life of Anna Freud

It was the sixth and last daughter of the marriage Freud. When she was born, her mother was already exhausted both physically and mentally.

This resulted in his care being entrusted to a Catholic governess named Josefine Cihlarz, with whom she was always united. This fact marked for always the life of the girl, who could not see in his family a support but rather to some strangers.

For all this, the psychoanalyst never had a close relationship with her mother. And the tension she felt with her also extended to her siblings, especially to her sister Sophie, who was her mother's favorite.

Apparently Sophie was the couple's most handsome graceful daughter. That situation and Martha's marked preference for her made Anna try to make up for the shortcomings she felt in her intellectual development.

Anna-freud-family Anna Freud with her family

The relationship with his father was different. Something that is evidenced so much by its works in groups as for having been the only one of its daughters that followed its steps in the world of the psychoanalysis.

Freud used to use different nicknames for his daughter. He used to call her Annerl, but he also nicknamed her 'black demon' because of the wayward and eccentric character she displayed in the family and social circle. Sometimes he also referred to her as Anna Antigone. In this case he did so to refer to the daughter of Oedipus, who guides him at the end of his days.

Despite internal conflicts with her family, Anna was raised in a bourgeois and accommodating environment. Being Sigmund Freud's daughter, it was not to be expected. The young woman received a good education and at an early age had already learned to speak several languages, including English, Hebrew, German, French and Italian.

In 1912, Anna completed her secondary studies at the Lyceum Cottage in Vienna. After graduation, her parents sent her to the city of Merano, which at that time belonged to Austria, to recover.

Apparently the girl had some ailments that could have been caused by her stages of depression and for the anorexy .

Just then his sister Sophie was married, but she did not attend the ceremony because her father prevented her. The reason was his health.

However, this situation made her feel displaced from her family. The result was a State of mind and his self esteem .

The beginnings of his career

Anna started getting involved with the His father's job Since he was 14 years old, when he frequented next to this the famous Committee of the Seven Rings, composed by Sigmund Freud, Sandor Ferenczi , Hans Sachs , Otto Rank , Karl Abraham , Max Eitingon Y Ernest Jones . However, although she was no stranger to her father's field of study, she studied pedagogy and became a teacher.

He devoted himself to teaching at the Lyceum Cottage during the years 1914 and 1920, when World War I was experienced. That year he left teaching because he became ill with tuberculosis.

That same year, the Freud family suffered the loss of Sophie, who died of an epidemic. Anna, like her father, tried to cope with the loss by dedicating herself to work, thereby gaining a foothold in the world of psychoanalysis.

Anna-freud-priest Anna Freud with her father walking

Knowing her daughter's interest in her field of work, Freud began to analyze Anna from 1918 to 1922. The sessions were held six times a week.

Before beginning this work with her father, the psychoanalyst had already read some texts about the Freud's theories . It was her attraction for this scientific field that led Anna to begin her career in psychoanalysis.

However, it is not possible to dismiss the fact that Freud's analysis of his daughter created a much closer bond between them.

It is said that the famous psychoanalyst felt a love narcissistic By his daughter, a theory that would reinforce by removing his potential suitors from his life. The Austrian feared that another man might distract her from him and that he would also diminish his interest in the study.

Your Institutional Work

In 1922 he joined the Psychoanalytic Society of Vienna. There he presented a first work called Ghosts and daydreams of a beaten child . As a result of his later investigations in this same field, in 1927 published his work titled The psychoanalytic treatment of children .

In 1923, when Freud had already been diagnosed with cancer, Anna decided not to move to Berlin to stay with her father. It was a time when she was also immersed in different conflicts with her mother precisely because of Freud's care.

Anna Freud: Biography and Work Sigmund and Anna Freud, at the VI International Congress of Psychoanalysis, The Hague 1920.

At that time, Anna attended the tours by the Psychiatry Service at the University Hospital Center in Vienna. That experience made her resume the analysis with her father.

It also assumed the edition of its works, Gesammelte Schriften, which completed in 1924. That same year was chosen to occupy the place of Otto Rank In the committee and the following year, in 1925, is appointed director of the newly opened Psychoanalytic Institute of Vienna.

Little by little Anna began to assume institutional responsibilities that would make her one of the great representatives of Viennese orthodoxy. By that time, Anna would begin to promote the formation of Kinderseminar too.

This was a research seminar on psychoanalysis applied to pedagogy. It was intended for both psychoanalysts and educators and social workers.

In 1925, Anna also met Dorothy Burlingham, a woman who would become her most beloved friend and with whom, according to many claim, had a romantic relationship.

Dorothy had four children and with them the psychoanalyst managed to somehow realize her desire to be a mother. All children had some kind of psychic disorder, some more serious than others. So Anna not only served as a second mother, but also as an analyst and teacher.

Promoted by them and with the collaboration with other professionals of the Institute of psychoanalysis of Vienna, the psychoanalyst created some centers of reeducación and kindergartens. She also started the first school for special children guided on the basis of psychoanalytic principles, which was directed by Eva Rosenfeld.

In 1927, Anna Freud became the secretary of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA). In these years, began to face with who would be its main detractor, Melanie Klein .

In 1934, while Sigmund Freud was completing his first draft of Moses and the monotheistic religion , Anna was starting El Me and the defense mechanisms , Which would be his most recognized work.

Anna-freud-melanie-klein Anna Freud with Melanie Klein

In 1935 the Jackson nursery was inaugurated in Vienna, an institution that was sponsored by the American Edith Jackson. The project was run by Anna and had been aimed at children under two.

The aim was to study the early stages of the child's life through direct observation. As a requirement for the study, the families of the children should be indigent.

In those years Nazism began to expand. Two years earlier, in 1933, the anti-Semitic law had been enacted. This led to the exodus of German and Austrian psychoanalysts, but it was not until the invasion of the troops of Hitler To Vienna in 1938 that the Freud family left the city.

Along with other friends, including Dorothy Burlingham, the Freud moved to London, England. Once established there, Anna dedicated exclusively to the care of its father, who died in 1939.

After the death of Sigmund Freud, Anna dedicated herself more to the work. During the course of World War II, specifically between 1940 and 1942, he organized a center to house the homeless children, who had been evacuated from their places of origin and were refugees.

Anna Freud: Biography and Work Anna Freud in 1956.

The name of the nursery was Hampstead War Nursery, which operated inside the Hampstead Clinic in London. In addition to protecting children from the war disaster, they also received psychological attention so that they could face the world.

Once the war was over, work with the children continued. And it was thanks to all these observations and investigations that later the psychoanalyst would publish different studies on the infantile psychoanalysis.

From 1963 Anna began to delegate her work at the Hampstead Clinic. And in 1976 he finally left the address of the clinic. Before that he had been traveling with Dorothy.

He taught at the Yale Law School and received honorary doctorates at the universities of Vienna, Harvard, Columbia, and Frankfurt. He also devoted himself to refuting and discrediting post-Freudian theorists and unauthorized biographers.

After Dorothy's death in 1979, Anna became very depressed. By 1982 he suffered a stroke, which affected both his motor skills and speech. He finally died on October 9 of that same year while he slept.

His contributions to child psychology

His first theories on the analysis of children were published in a work called Introduction to the technique of psychoanalysis of children . In this work Anna Freud devoted herself to criticizing Melanie Klein's theories.

During his career as a psychoanalyst he devoted himself to expanding and perfecting his father's ideas and theories. But unlike this, he did not work with adults but adapted them to the psychology of children and adolescents.

Anna Freud's interests were more practical than theoretical. To work with children, it was necessary to create a different technique. Unlike adults, in the lives of children, parents form a large part of their lives and that is something that therapists can not usurp.

Anna Freud: Biography and Work 1 Anna Freud in Psychoanalysis Congress in 1957.

Anna's idea was to become some kind of authority for the patient, but not acting like a parent or another child, but rather as a careful adult.

The work of the psychoanalyst highlighted one of the problems that the analysis of children had to face. Their symbolic skills are not at the same level of development as adults, so they present problems when verbalizing their emotions .

The advantage in this case is that their problems are closer to the surface and this allows them to be expressed without less symbolism, more directly.

However, the most important contribution of Anna Freud was the one she made in her book The Self and the defense mechanisms In 1936. In this work the author presented a fairly clear description of the operation of the defense mechanisms . This is where you lay the foundations of ego psychology.

This postulate is based on the capacity of the ego to decide, as well as to confront its physical and intrapersonal environment. As stated, the Ello constantly attacks the Self. So this new psychology sought to reduce the state of anxiety or tension of the subject so that he could manage to dominate his own life.

Anna focused on childhood because she believed that it involved the basis of cognitive, behavioral and emotional development.

So I thought that if I was able to correct some sort of conflict before the child reached the maturation stage, problems could be avoided in the next stages of development.


  1. Haggbloom, Steven J.; Warnick, Renee; "The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century." Review of General Psychology. 6 (2): 139-152. Doi: 10.1037 / 1089-2680.6.2.139. Warnick, Jason E.; Jones, Vinessa K.; Yarbrough, Gary L.; Russell, Tenea M.; Borecky, Chris M.; McGahhey, Reagan; Et al. (2002).
  2. Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth (2008). Anna Freud: A Biography. Yale University Press. Pp. 76-78. ISBN 978-0300140231.
  3. Aldridge, Jerry (2 July 2014). "Beyond Psychoanalysis: The Contributions of Anna Freud to Applied Developmental Psychology"(PDF). SOP TRANSACTIONS ON PSYCHOLOGY. 1: 25. ISSN 2373-8634.
  4. Sigmund Freud, On Psychopathology (Middlesex 1987) p. 176-7.
  5. From a letter written by Anna Freud in. Kohut, Heinz (1968). "Heinz Kohut: The evaluation of applicants for psychoanalytic training". The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis and Bulletin of the International Psycho-Analytical Association. 49: 548-554 (552-553).

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