Anna Freud(1895–1982); Biography and Contribution to Psychology

Anna Freud (1895–1982) was an Austrian psychoanalyst and youngest daughter of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. She followed the path of her father and contributed to the field of psychoanalysis. Alongside Hermine Hug-Hellmuth and Melanie Klein, she may be considered the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology. Because of her lifetime work with children and insight on child psychology through theoretical and practice perspectives, Anna Freud is known as the founder of child psychoanalysis and also contributed to ego and adolescent psychology.

Close to her father, she recounted her dreams to him from a young age (many of which are analyzed in his book The Interpretation of Dreams, which was published when she was 5 years old), and began reading his work as a teenager. She underwent analysis with her father as part of the training to become a psychoanalyst herself in 1918. She was admitted to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1922 and began taking patients of her own shortly thereafter. Her research and practice was primarily focused on children, which made her a rival of Melanie Klein, with whom she did not see eye to eye. Indeed, their rivalry briefly threatened to split the British Psychoanalytic Association but was in the end resolved amicably.

From 1925 until 1934 she was secretary of the International Psychoanalytic Association. In 1938, fleeing the Nazis, she moved with her father, by then very ill with jaw cancer, to London, where she oversaw the building of his house in Hampstead (in which she lived for the rest of her life). Posterity, rather unkindly, tends to regard Anna Freud as having little that was original to say, a perception her immense labour of editing and translating her father’s work did little to change. And though it is true her own thought is very much an extension of her father’s she nevertheless developed her own take on things, emphasizing the role of the ego (rather than the id, which was her father’s interest). She also expanded on her father’s work and identified many different types of defense mechanisms that the ego uses to protect itself from anxiety. While Sigmund Freud described a number of defence mechanisms, it was his daughter Anna Freud who provided the clearest and most comprehensive look at mechanisms of defense in her book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936). She then wrote Research at the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic & Other Papers(1956-1965).

She established the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic (1952, now known as the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families). She promoted parent guidance and school consultation as important functions of the child therapist. In 1965, Anna published Normality & Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development which explained all stages of child development from infancy to adolescence and used her personal observation at children’s clinics and other child and adult analyses as evidence.

Anna Freud began to receive honorary doctorates from various universities, including Harvard University and Vienna University. In 1973, she became the Honorary President of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) until her death in 1982. After her death, Hampstead Clinic was renamed to Anna Freud Center as a tribute and her home in London became the Freud Museum (Sigmund Freud Museum).

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