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Research at the Anna Freud Centre
Anna Freud was the youngest child of the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud and his wife Martha. Anna Freud's work on psycholoanalysis was highly influential in relation to both research and practice, especially with regards to psychoanalytic child psychology. The Anna Freud Centre (AFC) (previously the Hampstead Clinic) was so named in 1984, as a tribute to her passion for work and teaching.
The core mission of the AFC has been to constantly improve the help given to children and families in emotional distress. In order to achieve this goal we have a long tradition of systematic research in the field of children's social and emotional development. The Centre has a track record of innovative research and clinical practice with expertise across a very wide range of disciplines. In particular, we have sought to understand better the potential causes of psychological and emotional problems and how these might be best addressed with different models of therapy.
Over the years the AFC has been at the centre of many ground breaking studies aimed at improving how we can help children with different emotional needs, including those who have been placed for adoption, foster or kinship care. A key organising principle for much of our research has centered on importance of early attachment.
Our early psychoanalytical research based on painstaking and careful observation is now complemented by a range of cutting-edge methodologies, spanning brain imaging to genetics. For example, the Developmental Neuroscience Unit (DNU) within the Centre explores how biological, psychological and social factors affect development, particularly in infancy and adolescence. We also collaborate with researchers at University College London (UCL), using neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to better understand how early family adversity may affect emotional development. These 'basic science' projects are part of a wider research strategy that aims to improve how we treat and help children and families with different forms of therapy or intervention.
Our work is highly collaborative and we work with many colleagues in the UK and abroad. Notable collaborations include University College London, Yale University’s Child Study Centre, the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at Kings College, London