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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.
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