Anna Freud


Anna Freud (1895-1982) was the youngest of Sigmund’s six children, and the only one to show an interest in his work. She began reading his books when she was 15 but didn’t decide to become an analyst until later. In her early twenties, Anna wanted to be analyzed but who could you go to when there’s no one better than your Dad? So, when she was 23, Sigmund (then in his early sixties) psychoanalyzed Anna.

After Sigmund’s death, Anna was the defender of the faith. She continued to promote his ideas but tended to emphasize ego more than her father had. Anna believed that repression was the main defense mechanism because acting on impulse can hurt you. But more than defending and modifying her father’s work, Anna Freud extended psychoanalytic ideas to children. She maintained that play time was normal, and showed children’s ability to adapt to reality. Children aren’t simply bundled of unconscious conflicts. They are adaptive and creative beings.

In a study she coauthored with Dorothy Burlingham, Anna showed that children look to their parents for cues on how to reaction to situations. During WWII bombing raids, British families were observed in air raid shelters. The children didn’t have instinctive reactions but looked to their mothers to see how she was reacting.

Anna Freud created a classification system to organize evaluations of children’s symptoms. Development was seen as a series of id-ego interactions, where children gain increased control of themselves. Her “diagnostic profile” was a formal assessment procedure that tracked developmental progress on six dimensions of change:

  •      1. dependency to emotional self-reliance
  •      2. sucking to rational eating
  •      3. wetting and soiling to bladder and bowel control
  •      4. irresponsibility to responsibility
  •      5. play to work
  •      6. egocentricity to companionship

For more on Anna Freud, check out this video on the NeoFreudians.


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