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.'
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.
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.
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'.
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 analysis, 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.
'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.
In 1938, following the Anschluss in which Nazi Germany occupied Austria, Anna was taken to Gestapo headquarters in Vienna for questioning on the activities 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.
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).
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'.
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.
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.
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 life-partner 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.
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.
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.
"Hysterical: Anna Freud's Story" a novel by Rebecca Coffey, She Writes Press (May 13, 2014)
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).