Compared to her father, her work emphasized the importance of the ego and its normal “developmental lines” as well as incorporating a distinctive emphasis on collaborative work across a range of analytical and observational contexts. Alongside Melanie Klein, she may be considered the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology: as her father put it, child analysis "had received a powerful impetus through 'the work of Frau Melanie Klein and of my daughter, Anna Freud.'"
Anna Freud was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary on 3 December 1895. She was the youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays. She grew up in "comfortable bourgeois circumstances." Anna Freud appears to have had a comparatively unhappy childhood, in which she "never made a close or pleasurable relationship with her mother, and was instead nurtured by their Catholic nurse Josephine." She had difficulties getting along with her siblings, specifically with her sister Sophie Freud. Sophie, who was the more attractive child, represented a threat in the struggle for the affection of their father: "the two young Freuds developed their version of a common sisterly division of territories: 'beauty' and 'brains', and their father once spoke of her 'age-old jealousy of Sophie.'
As well as this rivalry between the two sisters, Anna had other difficulties growing up – 'a somewhat troubled youngster who complained to her father in candid letters how all sorts of unreasonable thoughts and feelings plagued her'. It seems that 'in general, she was relentlessly competitive with her siblings...and was repeatedly sent to health farms for thorough rest, salutary walks, and some extra pounds to fill out her all too slender shape': she may have suffered from depression which caused eating disorders.
The close relationship between Anna and her father was different from the rest of her family. She was a lively child with a reputation for mischief. Freud wrote to his friend Wilhelm Fliess in 1899: "Anna has become downright beautiful through naughtiness." Freud is said to refer to her in his diaries more than others in the family .
Later on Anna Freud would say that she didn’t learn much in school; instead she learned from her father and his guests at home. This was how she picked up Hebrew, German, English, French and Italian. At the age of 15, she started reading her father’s work and discovered a dream she had 'at the age of nineteen months...appeared in The Interpretation of Dreams. Commentators have noted how 'in the dream of little Anna...little Anna only hallucinates forbidden objects'. Anna finished her education at the Cottage Lyceum in Vienna in 1912. Suffering from a depression and anorexia, she was very insecure about what to do in the future.
A visit to Britain in the autumn of 1914, which her father’s colleague, Ernest Jones, chaperoned, became of concern to Freud when he learned of the latter’s romantic intentions. His advice to Jones, in a letter of 22 July 1914, was that his daughter "… does not claim to be treated as a woman, being still far away from sexual longings and rather refusing man. There is an outspoken understanding between me and her that she should not consider marriage or the preliminaries before she gets two or three years older".
In 1914 she passed the test to work as a teaching apprentice at her old school, the Cottage Lyceum. From 1915 to 1917, she worked as a teaching apprentice for third, fourth, and fifth graders. For the school year 1917-18, she began ‘her first venture as Klassenlehrerin (head teacher) for the second grade’. For her performance during the school years 1915-18 she was highly praised by her superior, Salka Goldman who ‘wrote…she showed “great zeal “for all her responsibilities, but she was particularly appreciated for her “conscientious preparations” and for her “gift for teaching”….being such a success that she was invited to stay on with a regular four-year contract starting in the fall of 1918’.
After experiencing multiple episodes of illness Anna Freud resigned her teaching post in 1920. This enabled her to pursue further her growing interest in her father’s work and writings. . From 1918 to 1921 and from 1924 to 1929 she was in analysis with her father.
In 1922 she presented her paper "Beating Fantasies and Daydreams" to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society and became a member of the society. In 1923, she began her own psychoanalytical practice with children and by 1925 she was teaching at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute on the technique of child analysis. From 1925 until 1934, she was the Secretary of the International Psychoanalytical Association while she continued child analysis and contributed to seminars and conferences on the subject. In 1935, she became director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute and the following year she published her influential study of the "ways and means by which the ego wards off depression, displeasure and anxiety", The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence. It became a founding work of ego psychology and established Freud’s reputation as a pioneering theoretician.
Among the first children Anna Freud took into analysis were those of Dorothy Burlingham. In 1925 Burlingham, heiress to the Tiffany luxury jewellery retailer, had arrived in Vienna from New York with her four children and entered analysis firstly with Theodore Reik and then, with a view to training in child analyst, with Freud himself. Anna and Dorothy soon developed “intimate relations that closely resembled those of lesbians”, though Anna “categorically denied the existence of a sexual relationship”. After the Burlinghams moved into the same apartment block as the Freuds in 1929 she became, in effect, the children’s stepparent.
In 1938, following the Anschluss in which Nazi Germany occupied Austria, Anna was taken to Gestapo headquaters in Vienna for questioning on the activites of the International Psychoanalytical Association. Unknown to her father she and her brother Martin had obtained Veronal from Max Schur, the family doctor, in sufficient quantities to commit suicide if faced with torture or internment. In the event she survived her interrogation ordeal and returned to the family home. After her father had reluctantly accepted the urgent need to leave Vienna, she set about organising the complex immigration process for the family in liaison with Ernest Jones, the then President of the International Psychoanalytical Association, who secured the immigration permits that eventually led to the family establishing their new home in London at 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead.
Anna started to lecture on child analysis in English. At that time in London, the field of child analysis was only being explored by Anna and Melanie Klein, Anna's mentor. Anna’s arrival in London resulted in splitting the school of child analysis into three types: Freudian, Kleinian and a combination of the two approaches. The Kleinian approach differed from the Freudian in several methodological and theoretical techniques around infancy and object relationships. For example, the Freudian approach did not believe that children experienced superego, and their therapist should be part of their transference and significant figures. In contrast, Klein believed that children had superego, and needed to be treated with the same techniques as adults (Fisher et al., 2005). These differences had initially threatened the discipline of Anna’s Freudian techniques of child analysis in England, but by the end of World War II, the conflict was resolved through parallel acceptance for both movements (the Freud Museum, n.d).
The war gave Freud opportunity to observe the effect of deprivation of parental care on children. She set up a centre for young war victims, called "The Hampstead War Nursery". Here the children got foster care although mothers were encouraged to visit as often as possible. The underlying idea was to give children the opportunity to form attachments by providing continuity of relationships. This was continued, after the war, at the Bulldogs Bank Home, which was an orphanage, run by colleagues of Freud, that took care of children who survived concentration camps. Based on these observations Anna published a series of studies with her long-time friend, Dorothy Tiffany-Burlingham on the impact of stress on children and the ability to find substitute affections among peers when parents cannot give them.
Freud naturalised as a British subject on 22 July 1946.
From the 1950s until the end of her life Freud travelled regularly to the United States to lecture, to teach and to visit friends. She was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959. During the 1970s she was concerned with the problems of emotionally deprived and socially disadvantaged children, and she studied deviations and delays in development. At Yale Law School, she taught seminars on crime and the family: this led to a transatlantic collaboration with Joseph Goldstein and Albert J. Solnit on children's needs and the law, published in three volumes as Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973), Before the Best Interests of the Child (1979), and In the Best Interests of the Child (1986).
Freud died in London on 9 October 1982. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and her ashes placed in a marble shelf next to her parents' ancient Greek funeral urn. Her lifelong friend Dorothy Tiffany-Burlingham and several other members of the Freud family also rest there.
One year after Freud's death her collected works were published. She was described as "a passionate and inspirational teacher" and in 1984 the Hampstead Clinic was renamed the Anna Freud Centre. In 1986 her London home of forty years, as she had wished, was transformed into the Freud Museum, dedicated to her father and the British Psychoanalytical Society.
Anna Freud was a prolific writer, contributing articles on psychoanalysis to many different publications throughout her lifetime. Her first publication was titled, An Introduction to Psychoanalysis: Lectures for Child Analysts and Teachers 1922-1935, and was the result of four different lectures she was delivering at the time, to teachers and caretakers of young children in Vienna.
Anna Freud's first article Beating fantasies and daydreams (1922), 'drew in part on her own inner life, but th[at]...made her contribution no less scientific'. In it she explained how, 'Daydreaming, which consciously may be designed to suppress masturbation, is mainly unconsciously an elaboration of the original masturbatory fantasies'. Her father, Sigmund Freud, had earlier covered very similar ground in '"A Child is Being Beaten"' – 'they both used material from her analysis as clinical illustration in their sometimes complementary papers' – in which he highlighted a female case where 'an elaborate superstructure of day-dreams, which was of great significance for the life of the person concerned, had grown up over the masochistic beating-phantasy...[one] which almost rose to the level of a work of art'.
'Her views on child development, which she expounded in 1927 in her first book, An Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis, clashed with those of Melanie Klein...[who] was departing from the developmental schedule that Freud, and his analyst daughter, found most plausible'. In particular, Anna Freud's belief that 'In children's analysis, the transference plays a different role... and the analyst not only "represents mother" but is still an original second mother in the life of the child' became something of an orthodoxy over much of the psychoanalytic world.
For her next major work in 1936, her 'classic monograph on ego psychology and defense mechanisms, Anna Freud drew on her own clinical experience, but relied on her father's writings as the principal and authoritative source of her theoretical insights'. Here her 'cataloguing of regression, repression, reaction formation, isolation, undoing, projection, introjection, turning against the self, reversal and sublimation' helped establish the importance of the ego functions and the concept of defence mechanisms, continuing the greater emphasis on the ego of her father – 'We should like to learn more about the ego' – during his final decades.
Special attention was paid in it to later childhood and adolescent developments – 'I have always been more attracted to the latency period than the pre-Oedipal phases' – emphasising how the 'increased intellectual, scientific, and philosophical interests of this period represent attempts at mastering the drives'. The problem posed by physiological maturation has been stated forcefully by Anna Freud. "Aggressive impulses are intensified to the point of complete unruliness, hunger becomes voracity... The reaction-formations, which seemed to be firmly established in the structure of the ego, threaten to fall to pieces".
Selma Fraiberg's tribute of 1959 that 'The writings of Anna Freud on ego psychology and her studies in early child development have illuminated the world of childhood for workers in the most varied professions and have been for me my introduction and most valuable guide spoke at that time for most of psychoanalysis outside the Kleinian heartland.
Arguably, however, it was in Anna Freud's London years 'that she wrote her most distinguished psychoanalytic papers – including "About Losing and Being Lost", which everyone should read regardless of their interest in psychoanalysis'. Her description therein of 'simultaneous urges to remain loyal to the dead and to turn towards new ties with the living' may perhaps reflect her own mourning process after her father's recent death.
Focusing thereafter on research, observation and treatment of children, Anna Freud established a group of prominent child developmental analysts (which included Erik Erikson, Edith Jacobson and Margaret Mahler) who noticed that children's symptoms were ultimately analogue to personality disorders among adults and thus often related to developmental stages. Her book Normality and Pathology in Childhood (1965) summarised 'the use of developmental lines charting theoretical normal growth "from dependency to emotional self-reliance"'. Through these then revolutionary ideas Anna provided us with a comprehensive developmental theory and the concept of developmental lines, which combined her father's important drive model with more recent object relations theories emphasizing the importance of parents in child development processes.
Nevertheless, her basic loyalty to her father's work remained unimpaired, and it might indeed be said that 'she devoted her life to protecting her father's legacy... In her theoretical work there would be little criticism of him, and she would make what is still the finest contribution to the psychoanalytic understanding of passivity', or what she termed 'altruistic surrender... excessive concern and anxiety for the lives of his love objects'.
Sigmund Freud biographer Louis Breger observed that Anna Freud's publications 'contain few original ideas and are, for the most part, a slavish application of her father's theories.'
Jacques Lacan called 'Anna Freud the plumb line of psychoanalysis. 'Well, the plumb line doesn't make a building... [but] it allows us to gauge the vertical of certain problems.'
With psychoanalysis continuing to move away from classical Freudianism to other concerns, it may still be salutary to heed Anna Freud's warning about the potential loss of her father's 'emphasis on conflict within the individual person, the aims, ideas and ideals battling with the drives to keep the individual within a civilized community. It has become modern to water this down to every individual's longing for perfect unity with his mother... There is an enormous amount that gets lost this way'.
"Dear John ..., You asked me what I consider essential personal qualities in a future psychoanalyst. The answer is comparatively simple. If you want to be a real psychoanalyst you have to have a great love of the truth, scientific truth as well as personal truth, and you have to place this appreciation of truth higher than any discomfort at meeting unpleasant facts, whether they belong to the world outside or to your own inner person.
Further, I think that a psychoanalyst should have... interests... beyond the limits of the medical field... in facts that belong to sociology, religion, literature, [and] history,... [otherwise] his outlook on... his patient will remain too narrow. This point contains... the necessary preparations beyond the requirements made on candidates of psychoanalysis in the institutes. You ought to be a great reader and become acquainted with the literature of many countries and cultures. In the great literary figures you will find people who know at least as much of human nature as the psychiatrists and psychologists try to do.
Does that answer your question?"
In perhaps not dissimilar vein, she wrote in 1954 that 'With due respect for the necessary strictest handling and interpretation of the transference, I feel still that we should leave room somewhere for the realization that analyst and patient are also two real people, of equal adult status, in a real personal relationship to each other'.Freud, Anna (1966–1980). The Writings of Anna Freud: 8 Volumes. New York: Indiana University of Pennsylvania (These volumes include most of Freud's papers.)
Vol. 1. Introduction to Psychoanalysis: Lectures for Child Analysts and Teachers (1922–1935)
Vol. 2. Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936); (Revised edition: 1966 (US), 1968 (UK))
Vol. 3. Infants Without Families Reports on the Hampstead Nurseries
Vol. 4. Indications for Child Analysis and Other Papers (1945–1956)
Vol. 5. Research at the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic and Other Papers (1956–1965)
Vol. 6. Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development (1965)
Vol. 7. Problems of Psychoanalytic Training, Diagnosis, and the Technique of Therapy (1966–1970)
Vol. 8. Psychoanalytic Psychology of Normal Development
Freud in collaboration with Sophie Dann: "An Experiment in Group Upbringing", in: The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, VI, 1951.
In 2002, Freud was honoured with a blue plaque, by English Heritage, at 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead in London, her home between 1938 and 1982.
On 3 December 2014, Freud was the subject of a Google Doodle.
The final track on the eponymous debut album of indie-rock band The National is titled "Anna Freud".
"Hysterical: Anna Freud's Story" a novel by Rebecca Coffey, She Writes Press (May 13, 2014)