Main characteristics of female child psychoanalysts
By Peter Klevius
The history of child psychoanalysis begins with Sigmund Freud's case[1] of the five-year-old Little Hans, published in 1909. However, treatment of delinquent children and youth by the means of psychoanalysis got a bad start. The first child client of the first female child psychoanalyst ever lived with his analyst but was kicked out after a while and had a history of foster homes and boarding schools, and eventually killed his analyst[2], Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, an influential precursor of Anna Freud. The same year, 1924, Hug-Hellmuth?s ?New Ways to the Understanding of Youth? was published. Obviously prematurely. More than three decades later Margaret Mahler presented her view on how a too close, ?symbiotic? attachment between parent and child causes pathology and delinquency. Her analyst and close friend August Aichhorn, who was a specialist on juvenile delinquency and young criminals, supplied the most powerful influence in her ?formative years?. It is notable that Aichhorn also mentored Anna Freud, who argued for less love and more "professionality" in the care of children. Clearly a precursor of the modern Social Stae!
A precursor to the idea of symbiotic relationship between mother and child is clearly visible in A. Aichhorn?s method of creating dependency in children and youth (1936). Furthermore most of Anna Freud and Margaret Mahler?s contribution to child psychoanalysis was presented during the period of sexual counter-revolution between the 1930?s and the 1960?s[3]. According to L. Appignanesi & J. Forrester the mid-twentieth century was a special time of emphasize on proper motherhood instead of a penis envy transformed to competition with males (1992:458). Whereas Margaret Mahler intellectually relied on Sigmund Freud as well as on his daughter Anna, Melanie Klein, who developed her theories in the less sex-segregated 1920?s, profiled herself as a dissident in the psychoanalytic movement. A comparison reveals that the similarities between Anna Freud and Margaret Mahler stay in sharp contrast to the view represented by Melanie Klein. Having in mind that Mahlerian ?pathological symbiosis? concerns mothers, and that ?motherhood? is intimately connected to ?femininity?, two opposite views on mother/child relations emerge. Whereas the Kleinian view emphasizes the child?s destructive and even violent tendencies towards the mother, the view of Anna Freud/Margaret Mahler recognizes the mother as the main source of pathology.
Certain similarities and differences between pioneering child psychoanalysts, such as Anna Freud and Margaret Mahler on the one side, and Melanie Klein on the other side, appear. The reading of their texts and biographies reveals, apart from the heavy influence of S. Freud, a basic concern about femininity and motherhood. In this sense sex-segregation has played a major part in their lives and research. Not only in the sense of a straight forward denial of women?s rights to participate, but also, and more treacherously ? though understandable ?, as a burdensome, and not necessarily benign cultural heritage.
Main characteristics of three female child psychoanalysts are dichotomised for or against the parent (mother). Furthermore some important similarities are added for a better profiling of the differences.
In defense of the child[4]                                                       In defense of the ?good enough mother?
(wannabe mothers)                                                                 (the narcissistic child)
Anna Freud 1895-1982
Margaret Schönberg Mahler 1897-1985                                   Melanie Klein 1882-1960                
Poor daughter/mother-relation
Good relation with her mother
"Tomboyish" childhood encouraged by their   fathers. Father's favourite child. Later encouraged to watch guard their   femininity.
Her father was more interested in her sister
Encouraged and intellectually fed by their  fathers
Impressed by the intellectual skills of her   father, she took much inspiration from him
Severe problem with "femininity", outsider at   home, no (A. Freud) or late (M. Mahler at 39) marriage, no children of their   own
Serene and happy childhood, early marriage   (at 21), children of her own (at 22, 25, 32)
Suggested a more powerful woman than   conventional analysts
Followed Freud
A dissident in the movement
Obsessed in observing and dealing with   children of others. Only analyzed  children of others
Anna Freud was "vicariously" trying to be a   mother.
Analysed children of her own
Met and admired Sandor Ferenczi
Not satisfied with the results of her   analysis with Sandor Ferenczi[5]
Most important works in the ?feminised? and   ?mother-centred? era. Supported Freud?s patriarchal view on mother- and   womanhood
Most important works in the de-sex-segregated   era of the 1920?s and 1930?s. Seen by many as an early modern feminist
In contrast to early female psychoanalysts like Karen Horney and Helene Deutsch, the first ever child psychoanalyst, Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, who influenced Anna Freud, was childless just like Anna Freud and Margaret Mahler.
(source Peter Klevius, 2003)

[1] ?Little Hans? was actually analyzed by his own father, who was supervised by Freud. Hans? mother had already been in analysis with Freud.
[2]On 9 September Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was found strangled (by the boy she had analysed) on her couch. 2.400.000 Kronen were stolen from her underwear. According to a brief entry by Siegfred Bernfeld in International Journal of Psychoanalysis Hermine expressed a desire in a will a few days before she was murdered, that no account of her life and work should appear in psychoanalytic publications (L. Appignanesi & J. Forrester 1992:196-203).
[3]?Psycho?, made by A. Hitchcock in 1960, was based on R. Bloch?s novel but influenced by the screen player J. Stefano and the information he got from his psychoanalyst (compare the LAPSI controversy among US psychoanalysts at the time). The movie is a mix of Kleinian (wish to kill the mother) and Mahlerian (symbiosis) thoughts on the mother/son-relationship. It is notable that there was considerable economical support on the behalf of the psychoanalytic movement in Los Angeles to Anna Freud and Margaret Mahler. So, for example, did Ralph Greenson?s Foundation for Research in Psychoanalysis in Beverly Hills financially support Mahler?s work and provided an important source of funds for A. Freud's work in London as well as for A. Solnit's (co-author with A. Freud in Beyond the Best Interest of the Child that was the main source for the final Swedish approach in the need/relation-debate) New Haven group around the journal, The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child that was closely connected to Anna Freud and her group in London.
[4] Whether someone, in a situation involving a parent and a child, is against one of them, or just protecting the other, is such a troublesome question that it should not be used for too hasty interpretations. But at least it should be seen as a possibility for questioning an equally over-simplified ?in the best interest of the child? interpretation.
[5] ?Ferenczi did not analyse the negative transference and she felt that this analysis gave her no lasting insight. Also, Ferenczi gradually abandoned the analytic technique and devised ?active techniques?. He gave up the role of the analyst as a neutral interpreter, and actively encouraged, reassured, or directed the patient. This eventually led to an acute disagreement with Freud. Klein, from the start, opposed those developments as being out of keeping with psychoanalytic principles and she grieved for Ferenczi. For Abraham she had unmitigated gratitude and admiration. The fourteen months of analysis she had with him gave her, she thought, a true understanding of psychoanalysis? (H. Segal 1999).
Psycho-social timeline
The text is partly extracted from the  yet unpublished Homo Filius Nullius