Melanie Klein, one of the founding figures of psychoanalysis and the "mother" of child psychology

Melanie Klein (30 March 1882 – 22 September 1960) is one of the founding figures of psychoanalysis. Building on the discoveries of Sigmund Freud, she recognised the centrality of the infant’s first relationships with its primary caregivers and, most significantly, she elucidated the early mental processes that build up a person’s inner emotional world.

A pioneering child analyst from Central Europe, she was a controversial and powerful member of the British Psychoanalytical Society for 30 years and her influence is now worldwide.

Through the development of her own distinctive approach to psychoanalysis Klein inaugurated the school of psychoanalysis known as object relations theory, which places the mother-infant relationship at the center of personality development, and influenced the work of prominent psychologists like John Bowlby and Donald Winnicott. Her impact on developmental psychology has thus been indirect but profound.

A drawing by Melanie Klein's 10-year-old patient, 'Richard', of his 'internal family'. Klein wrote a detailed account of Richard's psychoanalytic treatment, undertaken in 1941, in Narrative of a Child Analysis (Karnac, 1961).

Toys used by Melanie Klein in child analysis.

In The Psychoanalytic Play Technique (1955, p122), Klein states that:

“….my work with both children and adults, and my contributions to psycho-analytic theory as a whole, derive ultimately from the play technique evolved with young children. I do not mean by this that my later work was a direct application of the play technique; but the insight that I gained into early development, into unconscious processes, and into the nature of the interpretations by which the unconscious can be approached, has been of far-reaching influence on the work I have done with older children and adults.”

A dinner to celebrate Melanie Klein's 70th birthday

Ernest Jones organises a dinner at Kettner’s (29 Romilly St, Soho) to celebrate Klein’s 70th birthday.

A dinner to celebrate Melanie Klein's 70th birthday, at Kettner's, London. W.1, 1952.

In photograph, clockwise from left: [sitting] Marion Milner, Sylvia Payne, Eric Klein, Roger Money-Kyrle, Clifford Scott, Paula Heimann, James Strachey, Gwen Evans, [unknown], Michael Balint, Judy Klein (wife of Eric Klein), [standing] Melanie Klein, Enest Jones, Herbert Rosenfeld, Joan Riviere, Donald Winnicott

Rare, silent cine footage shows Melanie Klein walking in the garden of her home in Clifton Hill around 1950:

The identity of the filmmaker, and of the gentleman who appears with Klein, are unknown.

Download a transcript of a 1983 BBC Radio 3 documentary about Klein's life and ideas. Made by Professor Richard Wollheim, the documentary featured a range of contributors including Betty Joseph, Elliott Jaques, Katharina Jones (Mrs Ernest Jones), Hanna Segal, Marion Milner and Jo Sandler.

Melanie Klein's works are collected in four volumes:

Selected books on Melanie Klein:

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