Anna Freud Biography (1895-1982)

Anna Freud

Anna Freud Biography (1895-1982)

Anna Freud (December 3, 1895 — October 9, 1982) was the sixth and last child of Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund and Martha Freud.

Born in Vienna, Austria but escaping to London in 1936 during the Nazi-occupation, Anna followed the path of her influential father contributing to the newly born field of psychoanalysis and founding the field of child psychiatry.

She developed the concept of defense mechanisms, identifying a number of ways in which people protect themselves from the psychological pain caused by unfortunate or traumatic interpersonal experiences, particularly through bad parenting.

Anna Freud also established nurseries and clinics for children who had become homeless due to the war or were suffering serious psychological disorder.

Thus, her contribution to the alleviation of human suffering was considerable, and until human beings learn to live in peace and harmony, and true parental love is the norm in the family, her therapeutic techniques and models continue to be of value.


As a child, Anna Freud fostered a close relationship to the Freud family’s Catholic nursemaid, Josefine Cihlarz, who played a significant role in the upbringing of the three youngest Freud children.

Though Anna remained extremely close to her father, the famous Sigmund Freud, her relationship with her mother and older sister, Sophie, was unusually strained.

A lively child with a reputation for mischief, Anna won the respect and admiration of her father at an early age. In an 1899 letter to his friend Wilhelm Fliess, Sigmund Freud wrote of his youngest daughter, «Anna has become downright beautiful through naughtiness.

» Despite her mischief, Anna was raised to respect the values of discipline and behavior, two traits that would remain with her throughout her professional career.

Anna began her schooling at the age of six and entered the Salka Goldman Cottage Lyceum, an all female school for teaching, at the age of ten.

Throughout her schooling, Anna maintained a love for reading and writing poetry, and was renowned for her extraordinary memory, an asset that would play a critical role in later years involving clinical discussion.

Her academic performance while attending the Lyceum soon ensured her a position on the teaching staff, which she accepted until 1922.

Though Anna excelled as a teacher, her interest in the field of psychoanalysis and psychiatry never waned. From 1918 to 1922, her father performed psychoanalysis on her, further enhancing her interest in psychology. Eventually, Anna left the Lyceum to assist in her father’s studies, becoming the Librarian of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Association in 1922.

After the 1938 annex of Austria by the Nazi party, the Freud family and a number of Jewish associates were safely transported to London where both Anna and Sigmund Freud continued their clinical studies as members of the British psychological society. Fundamental differences between the Viennese psychological society and the British psychological society eventually led to the creation of a second school of training for psychological study within Britain.

In 1939, Sigmund Freud eventually succumbed to cancer of the jaw with his daughter, Anna, beside him. After his death Anna retained her father’s fundamental psychological values, but continued in her personal pursuit of pediatric psychoanalysis.

In the midst of the Second World War, Anna, again with Burlingham, established the Hampstead War Nurseries to care for the population of homeless children affected by the devastation of the war. She also used the nursery to record various psychological observations regarding child development that helped to further increase the amount of knowledge within the field.

Her studies were collected and published in two works, Young Children in Wartime (1942) and Infants Without Families (1944).

In 1967 she was appointed Commander of the British Empire for her substantial contributions to the field of child psychology. In 1975 she received an honorary M.D. from the University of Vienna, and an honorary Ph.D. from the Goethe Institute in Frankfurt in 1981.

After a long and prestigious life, Anna Freud eventually succumbed to advanced anemia at the age of 87. Cremated, her ashes were laid next to her father’s in London in 1982.


Anna Freud took an immediate interest in the field of child psychoanalysis, and her first publication in 1927 refuted significant claims made by earlier analysts of the field including Melanie Klein, a respected member of the British psychological society. Anna Freud’s discord with the British society regarding the field of child analysis marked the first of many disparities between the Viennese and British psychological associations.

At the core of their difference was the formation of the superego. Melanie Klein believed that the superego developed at an early age through the conflict between the instincts of life and death, and the emotions of fear and aggression.

She rejected Sigmund Freud's view, which Anna adopted, that sexual energy, or libido, in relationship to the child's parents leads to the Oedipus complex, and that the superego arises from the struggle to overcome this complex.

Anna Freud’s following began to grow soon after her emergence into the Viennese psychological society.

Offering seminars throughout Eastern Europe, Anna soon gained international attention and respect throughout the psychological world.

With friend and colleague Dorothy Burlingham Anna established a public clinic for the physical and psychological care of the underprivileged children of Vienna.

In 1936 Anna published perhaps her most distinguished work, The Ego and Defense Mechanisms.

Within this work Anna expanded on her father’s ego theory, distinguishing between recognized human defense mechanisms and unidentified defense mechanisms that related to painful, distressing experiences.

Identifying the principle psychological defense mechanism as repression, Anna sought to investigate instinctual drives and the functions of the ego within children.

She found that children responded in more creative ways to both internal and external pressures, and further identified certain adolescent psychological conflicts which would ultimately influence her own views of the human personality. In this way, Anna distinguished herself from her father's work, recognizing that children's symptoms manifest differently from those of adults, and depend on their stage of development.

In 1952, Anna established the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic which further contributed to the knowledge of child psychoanalysis.

In 1965, she published perhaps her most influential work, Normality and Pathology of Childhood.

Anna continued in her research, publishing numerous studies and accounts regarding education, child development, and psychoanalysis throughout the latter half of her life.

From the 1950s until the end of her life Anna Freud traveled regularly to the United States to lecture, teach, and visit with friends.

During the 1970s Anna was concerned with the problems of emotionally deprived and socially disadvantaged children, and studied deviations and delays in development.

At Yale Law School she taught seminars on crime and the family which led to a transatlantic collaboration with Nobel Prize winner Joseph Goldstein on children and the law, publishing the influential Beyond the Best Interests of the Child in 1973.


Anna Freud is often considered a pioneer in the development of psychoanalytic theory and practice. In arguably her best known work, The Ego and Defense Mechanisms (1936), Anna identified psychological repression as the principle defense mechanism instilled within humans.

Her argument that the human ego played a significant role in the resolution of conflict and tension was further advanced by psychoanalysts Heinz Hartmann and Erik Erikson.

Her influence in the field of child development was also continued by the works of German psychoanalyst Edith Jacobson and Hungarian psychiatrist Margaret Mahler.

The formation of the fields of child psychoanalysis and developmental psychology have also benefited from the work of Anna Freud.

Focusing on the psychological research, observation, and treatment of children, Anna established a group of prominent child developmental analysts who identified children's symptoms as analogous to personality disorders among adults and related such findings to developmental stages.

At the time, these ideas proved revolutionary and she constructed a comprehensive theory of developmental lines, which combined her father's important drive model with more recent object relations theories of psychological development.

Her findings proved to emphasize the importance of parental roles in the child development process. Anna also developed different techniques of the assessment and treatment of child psychological disorders, thereby contributing to an understanding of anxiety and depression as significant problems among children.

Upon Anna’s death in 1982, the Hampstead Clinic which she co-founded in 1952 was renamed the Anna Freud Center after the «passionate and inspirational teacher.» In 1986 Anna’s home in London, as she had wished, was transformed into the Freud Museum, a psychology museum dedicated to the memory of her father and the psychoanalytical society.


  • Freud, Anna. [1927] 1975. Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis. Ayer Co. Pub. ISBN 0405064608
  • Freud, Anna. 1936. Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. (The Writings of Anna Freud Vol. 2, 1936) International Universities Press. ISBN 0823668711
  • Freud, Anna. 1954. The Psycho-Analytical Treatment of Children- Technical Lectures and Essays. Imago Publishing Co. Ltd.
  • Freud, Anna. 1966. Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development. (Writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 6) International Universities Press, Inc.
  • Freud, Anna. 1968. Indications for Child Analysis and Other Papers: 1945-1956. (Writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 4). International Universities Press. ISBN 0823668738.
  • Freud, Anna. 1970. Infants Without Families Reports on the Hampstead Nurseries. (Writings of Anna Freud, Vol.3): International Universities Press. ISBN 082366872X
  • Freud, Anna. 1971. Problems of Psychoanalytic Training, Diagnosis, and the Technique of Therapy 1966-1970. (Writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 7) International Universities Press. ISBN 0823668762.
  • Freud, Anna. 1981. Psychoanalytical Psychology of Normal Development. (The Writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 8) International Universities Press. ISBN 0823668770
  • Freud, Anna, Joseph Goldstein, and Albert Solnit. 1984. Beyond the Best Interest of the Child. Volume 1. Free Press. ISBN 0029123607
  • Freud, Anna and Dorothy Burlingham. [1942] 1976. Young Children in Wartime: A Years Work in a Residential Home. International Universities Press. ISBN 082366872


  • 2005. Anna Freud. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  • Peters, Uwe Henrik. 1985. Anna Freud: A Life Dedicated to Children. Schocken Books. ISBN 0805239103.
  • Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. 1988. Anna Freud: A Biography. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 0393311570.

All links retrieved June 20, 2021.


Anna Freud (1895-1982)

Anna Freud Biography (1895-1982)

Anna Freud was an early 20th century psychologist. The daughter of Sigmund Freud, she expanded upon his work and is considered one of the founders of child psychoanalysis.

Early Life

Anna Freud was born in Vienna on December 3, 1895, the youngest of six children born to Sigmund Freud and his wife, Martha.

Throughout her childhood, Freud remained distant from her five siblings and especially from her sister Sophie, with whom she rivaled for her father’s attention.

Many summers, Freud’s parents sent her away to health camps in order to help her overcome health problems, which may have included depression and chronic eating disorders. Freud was not close to her mother, preferring her nurse instead. She was, however, close to her famous father.

After finishing high school and training to become a teacher, Freud traveled to Italy to stay with her grandmother and to England by herself. In 1914, she began teaching at the Cottage Lyceum, the grammar school she attended as a child.

Professional Life

Anna Freud’s interest in psychoanalysis was piqued when her father began to analyze her in 1918. In 1922, Freud presented the totality of this analysis to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in a paper entitled «The Relation of Beating Fantasies to a Daydream.

» She became a member of the society shortly thereafter and began working with children in private practice. Within two years, she was offered a teaching position at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute.

In 1927, Freud accepted a position with the International Psychoanalytical Association as Secretary, and in 1935, she took over as director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute.

The following year Freud published The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, a book that laid the groundwork for the field of ego psychology and defined Freud as an innovative thinker.

Freud and her family fled Austria and emigrated to England in 1938 due to the Nazi invasion. She founded The Hampstead War Nursery, an institution that provided foster care and encouraged attachment and bonding for the youngest victims of the war.

Eventually, Freud published her observations of how stress affected children and the importance of creating foster attachments for children whose parents were unavailable in the book Normality and Pathology in Childhood.

The institute began to offer courses in 1947, and a clinic was built to offer services to children with psychological needs.

Freud spent the latter part of her life lecturing and traveled to the United States several times. She visited Yale Law School and conducted courses on crime and its effect on family relationships.

This area of interest provided her with the opportunity to work with Albert Solnit and Joseph Goldstein, and the three published their collaborations in Beyond the Best Interests of the Child in 1973.

Freud died in 1982.

Contribution to Psychology

Freud discovered that children often required different psychological treatment from adults and emphasized the role that early disruptions in attachment could play in the subsequent development of psychological problems. Her work studying children who had experienced abandonment or extreme neglect laid the foundation for later research into early attachments.

Freud's father had outlined the oral, anal, urethral, and phallic stages of psychosexual development, but his work was tentative and based upon the recollections of adults.

Through her work with children, Freud tightened her father's theories, emphasizing that children develop through distinct developmental phases. She also outlined and expanded upon her father's theory of psychological defense mechanisms.

In The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, Freud outlined many defense mechanisms, some of which contemporary psychologists still rely upon. A few of these defenses include:

  • Repression: suppressing anxiety-provoking thoughts.
  • Projection: seeing one's own negative traits in another person.
  • Displacement: transferring negative feelings onto a different person. For example, a woman might displace her anger toward her mother onto her therapist. 
  • Regression: reverting to a psychologically younger age. Traumatized young children, for example, might “forget” their potty training. 

Quote by Anna Freud

Last Update: 07-14-2015


Anna Freud Biography and Contributions to Psychology

Anna Freud Biography (1895-1982)

  • Known For: Founder of child psychoanalysis and alsocontributed to ego and adolescent psychology.
  • Born: December 3, 1895 in Vienna, Austria.
  • Died: October 9, 1982 in London, England.
  • Parents: Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays.
  • Contributions: Anna Freud became a major force in British psychology, specializing in the application of psychoanalysis to children.

    Among her best known works are The Ego and the Mechanism of defense (1936). 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 ofthe child therapist.

Because of her lifetime work with children and insight on child psychology through theoreticaland practice perspectives, Anna Freud is known as the founder of child psychoanalysis and alsocontributed to ego and adolescent psychology.

In her own words, she didn’t think “I'd be a goodsubject for biography, «not enough 'action'! You would say all there is to say in a few sentences -she spent her life with children!»

Even in such a simple summary of her life, she greatlyexpanded psychoanalytical thought. Her contribution to ego psychology consisted of describingvarious mechanisms of defense, including repression (the principal human defense mechanism),projection, and regression.

Her clinic experience and publications offered an insight intochildren’s developmental stages, providing us with psychological techniques to treat children andto understand the existing differences between a child and an adult.

Early Life

Anna Freud was the Austrian-Britishfounder of child psychoanalysis. She was the sixth and the youngest of Martha and SigmundFreud’s children (Sigmund Freud Museum).

Similar to her father Sigmund Freud, shecontributed to the field of psychoanalysis but with a particular focus on children, revolutionizingthe ways children are treated in many fields.

Throughout her work, she combined theoretical andpractical perspectives into describing and refining child psychoanalysis.

Though Anna did not have a meaningful relationship with hermother and was jealous of her elder sister’s beauty, Anna was a lively child according to herfather as shown in his letter to a friend in 1899 that “Anna has become downright beautifulthrough naughtiness” (Sigmund Freud Museum).

Anna Freud finished her education at Cottage Lyceum in Vienna in 1912 while uncertain of hercareer. Therefore, she moved to England after two years to improve her English, but her timethere was cut short due to World War I, resulting in her return to Vienna where she began toteach at her alma mater in 1917 (Sigmund Freud Museum).

Her further studies consisted oflearning from her father’s psychoanalysis work and practical experiences. She became a childpsychoanalyst without a medical degree.


Anna Freud presented her first paper “Beating Fantasies and Daydreams” and became amember of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society (Sandler, 2015).

In her paper, she explained that“'Daydreaming, which consciously may be designed to suppress masturbation, is mainlyunconsciously an elaboration of the original masturbatory fantasies” (Fenichel, 1945, p. 232)


She established her psychoanalytic practice with children and became an instructorat the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute.

During this time, Anna also began to nurse herfather as he became a patient of cancer (Sigmund Freud Museum).


Anna became the Secretary of International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) andcontinued her child analyses while lecturing on the subject, organizing conferences and nursingher father, as well as publicly representing him on various occasions, including awardceremonies (Sandler, 2015).

Anna’s work at the Training Institute resulted in her first bookIntroduction to theTechniques of Child Analysis,which consisted of lectures for teachers, parents, and others whocame into contact with children.

Later, she was invited to present this publication in Londonwhere she discovered her approach to be widely different from that of Melanie Klein’s.

Througha series of “controversial discussions,” their conflicting theories resulted in the formation ofdifferent schools of thought: Anna’s theories of child development and Melanie’s theory ofobject relations ( the mother-infant relationship) (Taylor, 2009, p. 78).


Anna becomes the director of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute in 1935.

The following year, she expands the psychoanalytic thought in ego and defenses with herpublication ofDas Ich and die Abwehrmechanismen(the Ego and the Mechanisms of Defenses,1937), which became the founding work of ego psychology and still remains a standard texttoday (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019).

In this book, she described variousmechanisms of defense and how ego unconsciously protect an individual from unpleasantfeelings arising from both within and outside.


With the upheavals in Austrian political and economic situations in the 1930s, Annaintegrated philanthropy into her psychoanalytic work.

She supervised Jackson Nursery (fundedby Edith Jackson, an American child psychoanalyst) in Vienna for economically deprivedchildren.

In this nursery, Anna and her friend Dorothy Burlingham continued their work byobserving child behavior and experimenting with their feeding patterns.

In 1938, the nurseryclosed due to the arrival of Nazis in Austria, and Ernest Jones (former IPA President) helped infleeing the Freud family to London (Sigmund Freud Museum).


Within a few months of the war, Sigmund Freud passed away. By this time, Anna hadestablished her child psychoanalytic practice in London.


Anna, with her friend Dorothy Burlingham, established the Hampstead War Nurseries toprovide foster care to children during the war.

Due to these nurseries, she was able to observe theimpact of separation from families on children’s normal development. Written detailedobservations of children’s daily behavior in the nurseries became pivotal practical perspectivesfor Anna and Dorothy in their work and helped refine the child’s normal and pathologicaldevelopment.

Later, they recounted these observations in two publications:Young Children inWar-Time(1942),War and Children(1943), andInfants Without Families(1944) (The Editors ofEncyclopaedia Britannica, 2019).


With Kate Friedlaender (a female psychoanalyst), Anna established Hampstead ChildTherapy Courses and later founded a children’s clinic.

At this clinic, Anna and her staff gainedinsight into children’s development through weekly case studies by tracking theoretical normalgrowth “from dependency to self-reliance” and using diagnostic profiles to identify abnormaland normal factors in child development (Sigmund Freud Museum).

Anna began working and analyzing children from socio-economically disadvantagedbackgrounds and was committed to sharing her analytical work with those who work withchildren, such as parents, teachers, pediatricians.

She also traveled to the United States andexplored the application of psychoanalytical ideas on family and crime at Yale Law school. Thisparticipation resulted in two publications:Before the Best Interests of the Child(1973) withJoseph Goldstein andBeyond the Best Interests of the Child(1973) with Joseph Goldstein andAlbert Solnit (Sandler, 2015).

Anna publishedNormality and Pathology in Childhood(1965) which explained all stagesof child development from infancy to adolescence and used her personal observation atchildren’s clinics and other child and adult analyses as evidence.

Anna Freud began to receive honorary doctorates from various universities, includingHarvard University and Vienna University. In 1973, she became the Honorary President of theInternational Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) until her death in 1982 (“Anna Freud”, 2009).


On October 9, 1982, Freud passed away in London. After her death, Hampstead Clinicwas renamed to Anna Freud Center as a tribute and her home in London became the FreudMuseum (Sigmund Freud Museum).

She has been recognized by many in her life, but she alwaysdedicated the awards to the field of psychoanalysis rather than herself.

Critical Evaluation

Anna Freud established the field of child psychoanalysis and she work contributedgreatly to the theory of child psychology. She developed different techniques to treat children, and noticed that children's symptoms different from those of adults and were often related to developmental stages.

Anna Freud provided clear explanations of the ego's defense mechanisms in her book The Ego and the mechanisms of Defense (1936), including displacement, sublimation and Regression.

How did Freud Disagree with Klein?

Anna FreudMelanie Klein
Implemented storytelling in therapeutic settings. As child expresses himself, the therapist assist in interpreting and understanding feelings.Klein felt that young children could bear the full weight of her analytical interpretations and so she did not hold back or sugar-coat them (see her famous case study Narrative of a Child Analysis, 1961).
Used play as a means to build a positive relationship between the child and therapist, thus allowing the therapist better access to a child’s inner thoughts and emotions.Klein believedplay provided insight into a child’s unconscious, and used it as an analytic tool.
Focused on simple (less symbolic) interpretations of children’s play. She helpedchildren to consciously understand why their thoughts, feelings, and behavior.Emphasizing the role of free association through play, and as the vehicle to making interpretations directly to evenvery young children’s unconscious.
Anna emphasized the ego more in child analysis than when treating adults.Klein focused on pre-Oedipal development.
Many of the noted problems in young children are related more to short-term experiences than long-term experiences.Present behavior is caused by the past (e.g. childhood).

Iqra Noor is a member of the Class of 2023 at Harvard University. She is on a premedical track studying Neuroscience and Linguistics with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. On campus, Iqra is involved with cultural, advocacy, and tutoring organizations.

How to reference this article:

Noor, I.(2020, June 07). Anna Freud biography and contributions to psychology. Simply Psychology.


“Anna Freud”. (February 27, 2009). Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

Fenichel, O. (1945). The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. New York: W. W. Norton.

Klein, M. (1961). Narrative of a child analysis: The conduct of the psychoanalysis of children as seen in the treatment of a ten year old boy (No. 55). Random House.

Reuters. (October 10, 1982). Anna Freud, Psychoanalyst, Dies in London at 86. New York TimesArchive.

Sandler, A. M. (2015). Anna Freud. Institute of Psychoanalysis: British Psychoanalytical Society.

Sigmund Freud Museum. (n.d.). Anna Freud: 1895-1982. Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna.

Taylor, E. (2009). The Mystery of Personality: A History of Psychodynamic Theories. New York:Springer.The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (December 02, 2019). Anna Freud. EncyclopædiaBritannica, inc. .

Key Publications

Freud, A., & Clark, L. P. (1928). Introduction to the technic of child analysis (No. 48). Nervous and Mental Disease.

Freud, A. (1936). The Ego and the Mechanisms off Defense. International Universities Press, Inc.

Freud, A., & Burlingham, D. T. (1947). Infants Without Families: Reports on the Hampstead Nurseries, 1939-1945. International Universities Press.

Freud, A. (1954). The widening scope of indications for psychoanalysis discussion. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2(4), 607-620.

Freud, Anna. (1966). Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development. International Universities Press, Inc.

Freud, A. (1971). Problems of Psychoanalytic Training, Diagnosis, and the Technique of Therapy, 1966-1970 (Vol. 7). International Universities Press, Inc.

Freud, A. (1982). Psychoanalytic psychology of normal development, 1970-1980 (No. 112). Vintage.

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