Anna Freud was the youngest of the six children of Martha Bernays Freud and Sigmund Freud. She attended private school, but later said the majority of her education came from her father and his colleagues.
She learned several languages, including English, French and Italian. After high school, she qualified as an elementary school teacher and began translating some of her father's works, increasing her interest in psychology and psychoanalysis. Although Anna Freud never earned an advanced degree, her work in psychoanalysis and child psychology contributed greatly to the field and her own respected place in it. She began her own children's psychoanalytic practice in 1923 in Vienna, and later served as chair of the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society. Her 1936 book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense established her reputation as a pioneer in child psychology and became a classic text.
In 1938, Anna and her father fled to London to escape the Nazis. She helped establish the Hampstead Nursery, a psychoanalytic program and home for homeless children. Her experiences there provided material for three books, Young Children in Wartime (1942), Infants Without Families (1943), and War and Children (1943). After the Hampstead Nursery closed in 1945, Anna Freud created the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic and served as its director from 1952 until her death in 1982.