Anna Freud (1895-1982) was a pioneering psychoanalyst and a major contributor to the psychoanalytic movement. She was the youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays, and was born in Vienna, Austria. She began her formal education in psychology in 1910, and after attending the University of Vienna she went on to earn a doctorate in psychology in 1922.

Anna Freud is best known for her contributions to psychoanalytic theory and technique, particularly her work on the development of ego psychology and her innovations in child analysis. Her interests in the study of children and adolescents led her to form the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic in London, which provided an opportunity for her to apply her insights into the psychoanalysis of children. She was also instrumental in introducing psychoanalytic theory and technique to the psychoanalytic study of adults.

One of her most influential works was The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936). In this book, Freud proposed a psychoanalytic theory of ego development and defense mechanisms. She proposed that the ego is the driving force behind personality development, and that the ego develops defense mechanisms to protect itself from psychological trauma. This work was seminal in the development of ego psychology, a branch of psychoanalysis that focuses on the ego’s role in defense and adaptation.

Anna Freud’s contribution to psychoanalysis has been significant. She was a major figure in the establishment of modern psychoanalytic theory and technique, and her work has had a lasting impact on the field. Her work on ego psychology and defense mechanisms has been influential in the study of psychopathology and treatment. Her work on child analysis has also been an important source of insight into the development of personality.


Freud, A. (1936). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. New York, NY: International Universities Press.

Grossman, W. I. (2006). Anna Freud: The woman behind psychoanalysis. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

McWilliams, N. (2011). Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Robbins, M. (2002). Anna Freud: A biography. London, UK: Penguin Books.

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