History of Psychology – Finally, some female psychologists…

Today’s post will be talking about two of the first women in psychology.  They’re sharing a post as they were both working at the same time and influenced by the other’s work.

The first of these is Anna Freud, who was the daughter of Sigmund Freud and one of the few associates who remained faithful to his ideas. She built on his concepts of the psyche and the unconscious, but placed stronger focus on the ego than the id- most of Freud’s book on Ego defence mechanisms was actually Anna’s work. For this reason, the next movement in psychodynamic psychology became known as Ego psychology.

Anna also applied her and Sigmund’s work to dealing with children, instead of dealing with childhood recollections from adults. She also made psychodynamic psychology slightly more scientific by using of natural experiments and longitudinal studies on the children she worked with.

A portrait of psychology Melanie Klein
An image of Melanie Klein, obtained from Wikipedia.

The second of the two psychologists is Melanie Klein, who also studied child development at about the same time. She also based her work on Sigmund Freud’s- such as in her research of the Oedipus complex in younger children. However, her interpretation and transformation of his work was so extensive that it was rejected by the majority of Freudians.

The main difference between Freud and Klein was how they tried to treat children; Anna Freud believed children’s development worked differently to adults, so their symptoms wouldn’t be hidden in the same way, making traditional psychoanalysis not useful for children. However, Klein believed that once the child’s superego developed (age 4-5) they could be psychoanalysed in the same way as adults.

The difference between Freudian and Kleinian methods did not have much of an effect after they were both published. However, in a series of “controversial discussions” in 1942, both sides argued against each other so strongly that the British Psychoanalytical Society was forced to separate into 3 sections; Freudian, Kleinian, and Independent. It is still separate to this day.

Klein and Freud are the last major psychodynamic psychologists, and so the last in this series.  Next up are the Behaviourists, so I’ll see you next week for a look at how they worked.

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