Anna Freud Biography (1895-1982)

Anna Freud
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The name Freud is most often associated with Sigmund, the Austrian doctor who founded the school of thought known as psychoanalysis. But his youngest daughter, Anna Freud, was also an influential psychologist who had a major impact on psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and child psychology.

Who Was Anna Freud?

Anna Freud did more than live in her father's rather long shadow. Instead, she became one of the world's foremost psychoanalysts. She is recognized as the founder of child psychoanalysis, despite the fact that her father often suggested that children could not be psychoanalyzed. However, she strongly believed that psychoanalysis was not appropriate for children under the age of six, who could be better served through other methods.

She also expanded on her father's work and identified many different types of defense mechanisms that the ego uses to protect itself from anxiety. While Sigmund Freud described a number of defense mechanisms, it was his daughter Anna Freud who provided the clearest and most comprehensive look at mechanisms of defense in her book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936).

Many of these defense mechanisms (such as denial, repression, and suppression) have become so well-known that they are used frequently in everyday language.

Anna Freud is best known for:

Birth and Death

  • Anna Freud was born December 3, 1895, in Vienna, Austria.
  • She died on October 9, 1982, in London, England

Early Life

The youngest of Sigmund Freud's six children, Anna was extraordinarily close to her father. Anna was not close to her mother and was said to have tense relationships with her five siblings. She attended a private school but later said she learned little at school. The majority of her education was from the teachings of her father's friends and associates.


After high school, Anna Freud worked as an elementary school teacher and began translating some of her father's works into German, increasing her interest in child psychology and psychoanalysis. While she was heavily influenced by her father's work, she was far from living in his shadow. Her own work expanded upon her father's ideas, but also created the field of child psychoanalysis.

Although Anna Freud never earned a higher degree, her work in psychoanalysis and child psychology contributed to her eminence in the field of psychology. She began her children's psychoanalytic practice in 1923 in Vienna, Austria and later served as chair of the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society. During her time in Vienna, she had a profound influence on Erik Erikson, who later went on to expand the field of psychoanalysis and ego psychology.

In 1938, Anna was interrogated by the Gestapo and then fled to London along with her father. In 1941, she formed the Hampstead Nursery with Dorothy Burlingham. The nursery served as a psychoanalytic program and home for homeless children.

Her experiences at the nursery provided the inspiration for three books, Young Children in Wartime (1942), Infants Without Families (1943), and War and Children (1943). After the Hampstead Nursery closed in 1945, Freud created the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic and served as director from 1952 until her death in 1982.

Contributions to Psychology

Anna Freud created the field of child psychoanalysis, and her work contributed greatly to our understanding of child psychology. She also developed different techniques to treat children.

Freud noted that children’s symptoms differed from those of adults and were often related to developmental stages. She also provided clear explanations of the ego's defense mechanisms in her book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936).

Select Works

  • Freud, A. (1936) Ego & the Mechanisms of Defense.
  • Freud, A. (1956-1965) Research at the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic & Other Papers.
  • Freud, A. (1965) Normality & Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development.


  • Peters, U. H. (1985) Anna Freud: A Life Dedicated to Children. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
  • Young-Bruehl, E. (1988) Anna Freud: A Biography. Summit Books, New York.
4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Freud Museum of London. Anna Freud and child psychoanalysis.

  2. Aldridge J, Kilgo JL, Jepkemboi G. Four hidden matriarchs of psychoanalysis: The relationship of Lou von Salome, Karen Horney, Sabina Spielrein and Anna Freud to Sigmund FreudInternational Journal of Psychology and Counseling. 2014;6(4):32-39. doi:10.5897/IJPC2014.0250

  3. Stewart-Steinberg S. Impious Fidelity: Anna Freud, Psychoanalysis, Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press; 2012.

  4. Hartman JJ. Anna Freud and the Holocaust: Mourning and survival guilt. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 2014;95(6):1183-1210. doi:10.1111/1745-8315.12250

Additional Reading
  • Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Anna Freud. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Updated December 2, 2019.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."