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Freud, A. (1970). The Symptomatology of Childhood—A Preliminary Attempt at Classification. Psychoanal. St. Child, 25:19-41.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 25:19-41

The Symptomatology of Childhood—A Preliminary Attempt at Classification

Anna Freud


Analysts have always been proud of the distinction that theirs is a causal therapy, aiming directly at the conflicts and stresses which are hidden in the patients' personalities and underlie their symptomatology. Inevitably, with this approach they find themselves at cross-purposes with many of the adult neurotics under analysis who are intent only on being relieved of the suffering caused by painful anxieties and crippling obsessions, and who regard these as the only logical starting point for investigation; or with the parents of child patients who are concerned only with removing the disturbing manifestations in the child and completely disregard the pathological turn in the child's development which is revealed by the disturbances that trouble them.

Naturally, neither the adult neurotics themselves nor the parents of these endangered children possess the analyst's knowledge of the deceiving nature of overt symptomatology. They lack the experience of how quickly anxieties can be shifted from one apparently all-important object to another; or how easily one particular compulsion can be substituted for by a different one. Therefore, they cannot appreciate that symptoms are no more than symbols, to be taken merely as indications that some mental turmoil is taking place in


The material for this paper was gathered at the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic, an organization which at present is maintained by the Field Foundation, the Anna Freud Foundation, the Freud Centenary Fund, the Grant Foundation, the Flora Haas Estate, the National Institute for Mental Health, the Newland Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Psychoanalytic Research and Development Fund, and a number of private supporters.

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