Little Hans – Freudian Case Study

Saul Mcleod, PhD

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BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

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Case Study Summary

  • Little Hans was a 5-year-old boy with a phobia of horses. Like all clinical case studies, the primary aim was to treat the phobia.
  • However, Freud’s therapeutic input in this case was minimal, and a secondary aim was to explore what factors might have led to the phobia in the first place, and what factors led to its remission.
  • From around three years of age, little Hans showed an interest in ‘widdlers’, both his own penis and those of other males, including animals. His mother threatens to cut off his widdler unless he stops playing with it.
  • Hans’s fear of horses worsened, and he was reluctant to go out in case he met a horse. Freud linked this fear to the horse’s large penis. The phobia improved, relating only to horses with black harnesses over their noses. Hans’s father suggested this symbolized his moustache.
  • Freud’s interpretation linked Hans’s fear to the Oedipus complex , the horses (with black harnesses and big penises) unconsciously representing his fear of his father.
  • Freud suggested Hans resolved this conflict as he fantasized about himself with a big penis and married his mother. This allowed Hans to overcome his castration anxiety and identify with his father.
Freud was interested in the role of infant sexuality in child development. He recognised that this approach may have appeared strange to people unfamiliar with his ideas but observed that it was inevitable for a psychoanalyst to see this as important. The case therefore focused on little Hans’s psychosexual development and it played a key role in the formulation of Freud’s ideas within the Oedipus Conflict , such as the castration complex.

‘Little Hans’ was nearly five when has was seen by Freud (on 30th March 1908) but letters from his father to Freud provide the bulk of the evidence for the case study. These refer retrospectively to when Hans was less than three years old and were supplied to Freud through the period January to May 1908 (by which time little Hans was five years old).

The first reports of Hans were when he was 3 years old when he developed an active interest in his ‘widdler’ (penis), and also those of other people. For example, on one occasion, he asked, ‘Mummy, have you got a widdler too?

Throughout this time, the main theme of his fantasies and dreams was widdlers and widdling.  When he was about three and a half years old his mother told him not to touch his widdler or else she would call the doctor to come and cut it off.

When Hans was almost 5, Hans’ father wrote to Freud explaining his concerns about Hans. He described the main problem as follows:

He is afraid a horse will bite him in the street, and this fear seems somehow connected with his having been frightened by a large penis’.

The father went on to provide Freud with extensive details of conversations with Hans. Together, Freud and the father tried to understand what the boy was experiencing and undertook to resolve his phobia of horses.

Freud wrote a summary of his treatment of Little Hans, in 1909, in a paper entitled “ Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy. “

Case History: Little Hans’ Phobia

Since the family lived opposite a busy coaching inn, that meant that Hans was unhappy about leaving the house because he saw many horses as soon as he went out of the door.

When he was first asked about his fear Hans said that he was frightened that the horses would fall down and make a noise with their feet.  He was most frightened of horses which were drawing heavily laden carts, and, in fact, had seen a horse collapse and die in the street one time when he was out with his nurse.

It was pulling a horse-drawn bus carrying many passengers and when the horse collapsed Hans had been frightened by the sound of its hooves clattering against the cobbles of the road.  He also suffered attacks of more generalized anxiety . Hans’ anxieties and phobia continued and he was afraid to go out of the house because of his phobia of horses.

When Hans was taken to see Freud (on 30th March 1908), he was asked about the horses he had a phobia of. Hans noted that he didn’t like horses with black bits around the mouth.

Freud believed that the horse was a symbol of his father, and the black bits were a mustache.  After the interview, the father recorded an exchange with Hans where the boy said ‘Daddy don’t trot away from me!

Over the next few weeks Hans” phobia gradually began to improve.  Hans said that he was especially afraid of white horses with black around the mouth who were wearing blinkers.  Hans” father interpreted this as a reference to his mustache and spectacles.

  • In the first, Hans had several imaginary children. When asked who their mother was, Hans replied “Why, mummy, and you”re their Granddaddy”.
  • In the second fantasy, which occurred the next day, Hans imagined that a plumber had come and first removed his bottom and widdler and then gave him another one of each, but larger.

Freud’s Interpretation of Hans’ Phobia

After many letters were exchanged, Freud concluded that the boy was afraid that his father would castrate him for desiring his mother. Freud interpreted that the horses in the phobia were symbolic of the father, and that Hans feared that the horse (father) would bite (castrate) him as punishment for the incestuous desires towards his mother.

Freud saw Hans” phobia as an expression of the Oedipus complex . Horses, particularly horses with black harnesses, symbolized his father. Horses were particularly suitable father symbols because of their large penises.

The fear began as an Oedipal conflict was developing regarding Hans being allowed in his parents” bed (his father objected to Hans getting into bed with them).

Hans told his father of a dream/fantasy which his father summarized as follows:

‘In the night there was a big giraffe in the room and a crumpled one: and the big one called out because I took the crumpled one away from it.  Then it stopped calling out: and I sat down on top of the crumpled one’.

Freud and the father interpreted the dream/fantasy as being a reworking of the morning exchanges in the parental bed.  Hans enjoyed getting into his parent’s bed in the morning but his father often objected (the big giraffe calling out because he had taken the crumpled giraffe – mother – away).

Both Freud and the father believed that the long neck of the giraffe was a symbol for the large adult penis.  However Hans rejected this idea.

The Oedipus Complex

Freud was attempting to demonstrate that the boy’s (Little Hans) fear of horses was related to his Oedipus complex .  Freud thought that, during the phallic stage (approximately between 3 and 6 years old), a boy develops an intense sexual love for his mothers.

Because of this, he sees his father as a rival, and wants to get rid of him.  The father, however, is far bigger and more powerful than the young boy, and so the child develops a fear that, seeing him as a rival, his father will castrate him.

Because it is impossible to live with the continual castration-threat anxiety provided by this conflict, the young boy develops a mechanism for coping with it, using a defense mechanis m known as identification with the aggressor .

He stresses all the ways that he is similar to his father, adopting his father’s attitudes, mannerisms and actions, feeling that if his father sees him as similar, he will not feel hostile towards him.

Freud saw the Oedipus complex resolved as Hans fantasized himself with a big penis like his father’s and married to his mother with his father present in the role of grandfather.

Hans did recover from his phobia after his father (at Freud’s suggestion) assured him that he had no intention of cutting off his penis.

Critical Evaluation

Case studies have both strengths and weaknesses. They allow for detailed examinations of individuals and often are conducted in clinical settings so that the results are applied to helping that particular individual as is the case here.

However, Freud also tries to use this case to support his theories about child development generally and case studies should not be used to make generalizations about larger groups of people.

The problems with case studies are they lack population validity. Because they are often based on one person it is not possible to generalize the results to the wider population.

The case study of Little Hans does appear to provide support for Freud’s (1905) theory of the Oedipus complex.  However, there are difficulties with this type of evidence.

There are several other weaknesses with the way that the data was collected in this study. Freud only met Hans once and all of his information came from Hans father. We have already seen that Hans’ father was an admirer of Freud’s theories and tried to put them into practice with his son.

This means that he would have been biased in the way he interpreted and reported Hans’ behavior to Freud. There are also examples of leading questions in the way that Hans’ father questioned Hans about his feelings. It is therefore possible that he supplied Hans with clues that led to his fantasies of marriage to his mother and his new large widdler.

Of course, even if Hans did have a fully-fledged Oedipus complex, this shows that the Oedipus complex exists but not how common it is.  Remember that Freud believed it to be universal.

At age 19, the not-so Little Hans appeared at Freud’s consulting room having read his case history.  Hans confirmed that he had suffered no troubles during adolescence and that he was fit and well.

He could not remember the discussions with his father, and described how when he read his case history it ‘came to him as something unknown’

Finally, there are problems with the conclusions that Freud reaches. He claims that Hans recovered fully from his phobia when his father sat him down and reassured him that he was not going to castrate him and one can only wonder about the effects of this conversation on a small child!

More importantly, is Freud right in his conclusions that Hans’ phobia was the result of the Oedipus complex or might there be a more straightforward explanation?

Hans had seen a horse fall down in the street and thought it was dead. This happened very soon after Hans had attended a funeral and was beginning to question his parents about death. A behaviorist explanation would be simply that Hans was frightened by the horse falling over and developed a phobia as a result of this experience.

Gross cites an article by Slap (an American psychoanalyst) who argues that Hans’ phobia may have another explanation. Shortly after the beginning of the phobia (after Hans had seen the horse fall down) Hans had to have his tonsils out.

After this, the phobia worsened and it was then that he specifically identified white horses as the ones he was afraid of. Slap suggests that the masked and gowned surgeon (all in white) may have significantly contributed to Hans’ fears.

The Freud Archives

In 2004, the Freud Archives released a number of key documents which helped to complete the context of the case of little Hans (whose real name was Herbert Graf).

The released works included the transcript of an interview conducted by Kurt Eissler in 1952 with Max Graf (little Hans’s father) as well as notes from brief interviews with Herbert Graf and his wife  in 1959.

Such documents have provided some key details that may alter the way information from the original case is interpreted. For example, Hans’s mother had been a patient of Freud herself.

Another noteworthy detail was that Freud gave little Hans a rocking horse for his third birthday and was sufficiently well acquainted with the family to carry it up the stairs himself.

It is interesting to question why, in the light of Hans’s horse phobia, details of the presence of the gift were not mentioned in the case study (since it would have been possible to do so without breaking confidentiality for either the family or Freud himself).

Information from the archived documents reveal much conflict within the Graf family. Blum (2007, p. 749) concludes that:

“Trauma, child abuse [of Hans’s little sister], parental strife, and the preoedipal mother-child relationship emerge as important issues that intensified Hans’s pathogenic oedipal conflicts and trauma. With limited, yet remarkable help from his father and Freud, Little Hans nevertheless had the ego strength and resilience to resolve his phobia, resume progressive development, and forge a successful creative career.”

Support for Freud (Brown, 1965)

Brown (1965) examines the case in detail and provides the following support for Freud’s interpretation.

1 . In one instance, Hans said to his father –“ Daddy don”t trot away from me ” as he got up from the table. 2 . Hans particularly feared horses with black around the mouth.  Han’s father had a moustache. 3. Hans feared horses with blinkers on. Freud noted that the father wore spectacles which he took to resemble blinkers to the child. 4 . The father’s skin resembled white horses rather than dark ones.  In fact, Hans said, “Daddy, you are so lovely. You are so white”. 5 . The father and child had often played at “horses” together.  During the game the father would take the role of horse, the son that of the rider.

Little Hans Case Study (Freud)

Ross (2007) reports that the interviews with Max and Herbert Graf provide evidence of the psychological problems experienced by Little Hans’s mother and her mistreatment of her husband and her daughter (who committed suicide as an adult).

Ross suggests that “Reread in this context, the text of “A Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy” provides ample evidence of Frau Graf’s sexual seduction and emotional manipulation of her son, which exacerbated his age-expectable castration and separation anxiety, and her beating of her infant daughter.

The boy’s phobic symptoms can therefore be deconstructed not only as the expression of oedipal fantasy, but as a communication of the traumatic abuse occurring in the home.

Blum, H. P. (2007). Little Hans: A centennial review and reconsideration . Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55 (3), 749-765.

Brown, R. (1965). Social Psychology . Collier Macmillan.

Freud, S. (1905). Three essays on the theory of sexuality . Se, 7.

Freud, S. (1909). Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306

Graf, H. (1959). Interview by Kurt Eissler. Box R1, Sigmund Freud Papers. Sigmund Freud Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Graf, M. (1952). Interview by Kurt Eissler. Box 112, Sigmund Freud Papers. Sigmund Freud Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Ross, J.M. (2007). Trauma and abuse in the case of Little Hans: A contemporary perspective . Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55 (3), 779-797.

Further Information

  • Sigmund Freud Papers: Interviews and Recollections, -1998; Set A, -1998; Interviews and; Graf, Max, 1952.
  • Sigmund Freud Papers: Interviews and Recollections, -1998; Set A, -1998; Interviews and; Graf, Herbert, 1959.
  • Wakefield, J. C. (2007). Attachment and sibling rivalry in Little Hans: The fantasy of the two giraffes revisited. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55(3), 821-848.
  • Bierman J.S. (2007) The psychoanalytic process in the treatment of Little Hans. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 62: 92- 110
  • Re-Reading “Little Hans”: Freud’s Case Study and the Question of Competing Paradigms in Psychoanalysis
  • An” Invisible Man”?: Little Hans Updated

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At this point, you have probably heard of Freud’s psychosexual developmental theory. Although the theory was well-known, the research in favour of it was not as abundant. It has lost much of its credibility throughout the years. One notable piece of evidence that Freud provided was the case of Little Hans. ‘Little Hans’ is a pseudonym for Herbert Graf, the son of the critic musician Max Graf, a follower of Freud’s theories.  Little Hans presented a fear of horses that Freud aimed to understand and treat.

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At this point, you have probably heard of Freud’s psychosexual developmental theory. Although the theory was well-known, the research in favour of it was not as abundant. It has lost much of its credibility throughout the years. One notable piece of evidence that Freud provided was the case of Little Hans. ‘Little Hans’ is a pseudonym for Herbert Graf, the son of the critic musician Max Graf, a follower of Freud’s theories. Little Hans presented a fear of horses that Freud aimed to understand and treat.

  • This explanation will present the relevance of the Little Hans case in psychology.
  • Then, the actual case study from Little Hans will be described.
  • Next, Freud’s interpretations of the case study will be reviewed.
  • The strengths and weaknesses of Little Hans case study will be discussed.
  • And last, the explanation will provide an evaluation of the ethical issues of Little Hans’ case study.

Little Hans: Psychology

Sigmund Freud did not only contribute to our current knowledge of psychology through the development of therapeutic techniques and strategies. Freud also devoted great effort to the explanation of child psychosexual development. The Little Hans Case Study was used as evidence of such psychosexual development theory that Freud had stated.

The Little Hans case study (1909) is one of Freud’s most famous case studies. The case deals with the fears and traumas of a five-year-old boy. Hans’ father requested Freud’s support in dealing with the boy’s fear of horses.

From the age of three, little Hans showed interest in his own and other males, including animals’ penis. In this research, a penis is referred to as a ‘widdler’.

His mother had threatened to call the doctor and get him castrated unless he stopped playing with it. When Little Hans was four years old, he went through a traumatic experience .

Little Hans witnessed an accident with a heavily loaded horse that collapsed in front of him. After the accident, his parents noticed that he became afraid of horses, especially those carrying a heavy load and those with darker circles around the eyes or wearing blinkers.

He feared seeing other horses and didn’t want to leave his home due to his phobia of horses.

A phobia causes an intense fear response when exposed to or thinking about the thing; it is categorised as a clinical mental health illness.

Little Hans Case Study

Since Freud had demonstrated interest in the role of sexual drives concerned children’s development, Little Hans’ father contacted him for help. Up to the age of five, the contact between the family and Freud was in a written manner. When little Hans was five years old, Freud and Little Hans first met face-to-face.

Freud focused on Little Han’s psychosexual development to resolve the mystery of Hans’ fear of horses . He believed Little Hans was going through the phallic stage in which the children’s libido centres around the genitals.

The psychosexual stage of development is Freud’s theory, which states that as children develop, they go through a series of stages that centre around receiving pleasure from different bodily parts. And if children become fixated on a stage, it can cause the onset of psychological issues.

Freud presumed that his focus on male genitals was connected to th is fear of horses and the fear caused by his mother threatening her son with calling a doctor to get him castrated if he did not stop this obsession.

Approaches in psychology, The Case of Little Hans, Picture of a horse loading hay exemplifying what Hans might have seen in the accident, StudySmarter.

The father reported it to Freud, describing the worry about male genitals. Little Hans’ father, Max Graf, shared with Freud several conversations he had with his son.

The Case Of Little Hans: Analogies

One specific conversation between Little Hans and his father revolved around a dream or fantasy he had, in which he described two giraffes entering a room. Hans described his dream to his father:

In the night there was a big giraffe in the room, and a crumpled one: and the big one called out because I took the crumpled one away from it. Then it stopped calling out: and I sat down on top of the crumpled one 1

This was interpreted as a morning routine involving Little Hans and his father and mother waking up (the father was the big giraffe and the crumpled one was his mother). Freud and the father also suggested that the giraffe’s neck could also be interpreted as a phallic symbol.

When Hans was three and a half years old, his mother gave birth to his younger sister. Hans began competing for his mother’s attention and showing signs of jealousy. He said he wished his mother would drown his younger sister in the bath. However, Hans also developed a fear of drowning.

Hans’ sisters’ birth led him to question the process of conception and childbirth. The parents answered, telling Hans that a stork bird delivers babies in bags.

Freud’s Interpretation of Little Hans’ Traumas

Considering Freud did not personally interact with Little Hans until he was five years old, we have to consider the following interpretations with that in mind. Most of Freud’s theories about Little Hans’ fear and trauma revolve around Little Hans’ father.

The Oedipus Complex is one of Freud’s most infamous conceptualised theories, which he suggests to be a crucial stage in child development.

The Oedipus Complex is a psychoanalytic theory revolving around the idea of a sexual desire for the parent, which is the opposite sex to the child, and insists that a natural rivalry with the same-sex parent develops to win the attention of the opposite-sex parent.

Freud described Little Hans’ interest in ‘widdlers’ as an unconscious motive. He also added that Hans had experienced repression through his mother’s threats, which developed into his fear of castration.

Further, Freud thought Ha ns was j ealous of his sister because it reminded him of his pleasure during the earlier stages of development. He wanted his sister to drown in the bath so he could have his mother to himself.

When Little Hans wanted his father to go away and be alone with his mother, Freud explained that Hans desired his mother and related this to the Oedipus complex. According to Freud, Hans wanted a large penis to compete with his father and marry his mother, as he had entered the phallic stage of development.

Freud also associated Hans’ fear of white horses as part of the Oedipus Complex, as the horses represented his father and the fear that he could harm him. Freud interpreted this as Hans’ fear that his father would castrate him as a punishment for his incestuous desire for his mother.

This was associated with a defence mechanism known as identification with the aggressor. By adopting the father’s mannerisms, a child’s identification with the aggressor reduces the chances of conflicts occurring as they appease the father figure.

The fear s tarted as an Oedipal conflict and developed due to the mother allowing Hans in the parents’ bed and his father opposing him from getting into bed with them.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Little Hans Case Study

We need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the case study to analyse the legitimacy of Freud’s claims.

The Case Of Little Hans: Weaknesses

In what relates to generalisability, the case study was based on one child, and for this reason, the results may not be generalised or applicable to others. Little Hans had specific experiences, so whilst the case study revolves around him and is specifically relevant to him, the interpretations can only be related to him as well. It is a lack of population validity .

In terms of subjectivity, the case study requires a subjective interpretation, which could vary from analyst to analyst. Others could see Hans’ phobia differently , which means that the study case is unreliable. However, Freud collected very detailed data from Hans and his parents. Because of the rich data collection, the study can be re-analysed on an interpretative level relating specifically to Hans.

Jerome Wakefield (2007) used Bowlby’s attachment theory to Little Hans’ giraffe experience. The outcome was a symbolic way to compete for the mother’s attention with his toddler sister. Therefore, Bowlby’s findings rejected Freud’s conclusion linking it to the Oedipus complex.

It’s known that Little Hans’ parents were Freud’s followers, and the information provided to Freud may be considered biased. They may have asked Hans leading questions based on Freud’s theories and looked at Hans’ case through the lens of Freud’s interpretations.

The case study is not considered scientific as the unconscious castration fears are not testable, and Freud’s Oedipus Complex cannot be measured.

The Case Of Little Hans: Strengths

Freud’s studies and theories are focused on sexual and unconscious qualities, which has led to a new path for psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to be further studied. The case study was initially proposed to understand and treat Hans’ fear of horses and see whether there was any support for the Oedipus complex. It also helped track the development of a child aged between four to five.

Years later, when Little Hans became an adult, he paid a visit to Freud, who found he was a healthy man with a successful career, suggesting there was a long-term resolution.

Other interventions, such as medication, are often criticised for not getting rid of the root of the problem; instead, they just mask the problem. The findings suggest that the same can’t be said concerning Freud’s approach.

Based on the study, applying Freud’s concept and evidence for psychosexual stages and theory of gender development revealed the unconscious drives, which resulted in Hans’ cured phobia of horses. Suggesting the research has high utility, and psychodynamic principles should be applied to therapeutic settings.

Ethics of the Little Hans: Freud Case

There are several reasons why such a case study would not be feasible today.

One of these reasons relates to protection from harm. Freud investigated little Hans, but no specific treatment was provided. The case study was used by Freud as evidence of his own ideas but did not provide emotional support for Little Hans.

The study also conflicts with today’s ethical standards regarding informed consent and the possibility of withdrawing from the study. Although in today’s research, underage individuals cannot provide consent, in the case of Little Hans, it is different. The father was a follower and supporter of Freud’s ideas, which may have encouraged him to contact Freud, which could have motivated his father to stay on board with the research despite Hans’ needs.

Further, given the lack of a therapeutic outcome for Little Hans, the real aim of the case study is questioned.

Little Hans Case Study: Short Summary

In short, Little Hans was used in a case study to investigate his fear of horses after witnessing an accident. Freud’s interpretation was based on his psychosexual theory of child development, and thus, Freud explained Little Hans’ fears in terms of the Oedipus Complex.

Although the study was relevant at the time, it can widely be criticised today due to generalisability and validity issues. Furthermore, the case study presents ethical standards that would not be accepted today.

The Case Of Little Hans - Key takeaways

  • The Little Hans case is one of Freud’s most famous case studies.
  • L ittle Hans was going through the phallic stage within the Oedipus conflicts, fearing castration.
  • Little Hans experienced the trauma of seeing a horse collapse/die in the street at around four years old.
  • The fear of horses has led Little Hans to avoid leaving his home because he did not want to encounter any horses.
  • Freud’s theory lacks generalisability, is unreliable in its method collection, and is subject to bias as the parents were familiar with Freud’s theories.
  • Sigmund Freud. 1909. The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, volume X: Two Case Histories . London: Hogarth Press.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Case Of Little Hans

--> how long was freud’s study of little hans.

The data provided by Hans's parents started when he was three years old, and the experiment lasted until he reached the age of five. 

--> What was the case with Little Hans?

The Little Hans case study (1909) concerned the study of the fear and traumas of a five-year-old boy.

--> What happened to Little Hans?

Little Hans was going through the phallic stage when he had a traumatised event that caused a fear of horses. 

--> What was the method of the Little Hans study?

The method Freud employed was a case study to investigate Little Hans' phobia.

--> How many times did Freud meet Little Hans?

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Did Little Hans' case study provide supporting evidence of the psychosexual stages of development?

Freud tried to treat Little Hans directly. Is this true or false?

When did Freud interact with Little Hans directly?

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How did Freud intend to resolve the Little Hans case?

Freud demonstrated interest in the role of sexual drives concerned children’s development. He focused on Little Han’s psychosexual development when finding the key to resolving the mystery. 

How did Freud associate Little Hans with the Oedipus complex?

When he analysed that Hans was five years old, the association was inevitable. He realised that the Little Hans was going through the phallic stage within the Oedipus conflicts, fearing castration. 

What had called Freud’s attention to Little Hans’ interests when he was three years old?

From the age of three years, his parents reported little Hans showing interest in ‘widdlers’. i.e., his penis and those of other males, including animals.

How did Little Hans’ mother try to stop him from playing with his penis?

His mother used to threaten to call the doctor and get him castrated.

How old was Little Hans when he witnessed the horse accident?

When Little Hans was four years old, he went through a traumatic event. He witnessed an accident with a heavily loaded horse that collapsed in front of him. 

What happened to Little Hans after witnessing the horse accident?

After the accident, his parents noticed he started becoming afraid of horses, especially those carrying a heavy load or those with darker circles around the eyes. He feared seeing other horses and thus didn’t want to leave home. 

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  • The Curious Case of Little Hans

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little hans case study freud

Herbert Graf (‘Little Hans’) in the 1930s. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Session description

Little Hans was just five years old when he developed an intense fear of horses.

His parents consulted with Sigmund Freud, who later published a study of Hans’ phobia, claiming that it supported his controversial theory of the Oedipus complex.

This session will bring Freud’s case study to life. Guided by a subject expert, participants will examine the case material and Freud’s interpretation of it.

In this session:

  • Who was the real Little Hans?
  • What was going on in Hans’ life when he developed his phobia?
  • What was he saying and doing that interested Freud?
  • What were Freud’s key claims?

little hans case study freud

There were 70,000 horses in Vienna when Little Hans developed his phobia.

The case study is open to criticism, but it also shows that Freud was thinking extremely carefully about the emotional worlds of children.

Is Freud’s case an example of bad psychology, or was Freud onto something?

No prior knowledge is required, but if you have already discussed Freud in class we can build on what you have already covered.

Feedback on this session

“The students really enjoyed it. There was a great buzz in the room”

“Really lucky to have an expert who gave a real insight to Freud’s work. It definitely clarified my thinking on Freud’s theory.”

Made to measure!

‘The Curious Case of Little Hans’ has been devised as an enrichment session for A Level Psychology students, but can be tailored for KS4 and HE students, either as an introduction to the case or to consolidate classroom learning.

We use a flexible format and adjust each session to the interests and abilities of each group. Let us know your requirements when you book!

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Case Studies of Sigmund Freud

Introduction to sigmund freud's case histories, including little hans, anna o and wolf man..

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Case Studies of Sigmund Freud

Accounts of Freud ’s treatment of individual clients were key to his work, including the development of psychodynamic theory and stages of psychosexual development . Whilst the psychoanalyst’s use of case studies to support his ideas makes it difficult for us to prove or disprove Freud’s theories, they do provide fascinating insights into his day-to-day consultations with clients and offer clues as to the origins of his influential insights into how the human mind functions:

Little Hans

Perhaps the best known case study published by Freud was of Little Hans. Little Hans was the son of a friend and follower of Freud, music critic Max Graf. Graf’s son, Herbert, witnessed a tragic accident in which a horse carrying a heavily loaded cart collapsed in the street. Five year old Little Hans developed a fear of horses which led him to resist leaving the house for fear of seeing the animals. His father detailed his behavior in a series of letters to Freud and it was through these letters that the psychoanalyst directed the boy’s treatment. Indeed, the therapist and patient only met for a session on one occasion, but Freud published his case as a paper, Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy (1909), in support of his theory of the Oedipus complex and his proposed stages of psychosexual development.

Freud Cases

  • Rat Man: A Case of 'Obsessional Neurosis'
  • Dora Case Study
  • Inside the Mind of Daniel Schreber
  • The Case of Little Hans

Little Hans’ father relayed to Freud his development and noted that he had begun to show an intense interest in the male genitals, which the therapist attributed to him experiencing the phallic stage of psychosexual development. During this stage, the erogenous zone (the area of the body that one focuses on to derive pleasure) switches to the genitals. At this stage, signs of an Oedipus complex may also be observed, whereby a child competes with their father to retain their position as the central focus of their mother’s affection. Freud believed that this was supported by a fantasy which Little Hans had described, in which a giraffe and another, crumpled, giraffe entered the room. When the boy took the latter from the first giraffe, it objected. Freud believed that the giraffes symbolised his parents - the crumpled giraffe represented his mother, whom he would share a bed with when his father was absent, and the first giraffe was symbolic of his father. Children may also develop castration anxiety resulting from a fear that the father will castrate them in order to remove the threat that they pose to the parents’ relationship.

The boy’s fear of horses, according to Freud, was caused by a displacement of fear for his father onto the animals, whose blinkers made them resemble the man wearing his glasses.

Freud believed that Little Hans’ fear of horses disappeared as his described fantasies that indicated the resolution of his castration anxiety and an acceptance of his love for his mother.

Read more about Little Hans here

Dr. Sergeï Pankejeff (1886-1979) was a client of Sigmund Freud , who referred to him as “Wolf Man” owing to a symbolic dream which he described to him. Freud detailed his sessions with Wolf Man, which commenced in February of 1910, in a 1918 paper entitled From the History of an Infantile Neurosis .

Wolf Man first saw Freud having suffered from deteriorating health since experiencing gonorrhea at the age of eighteen. He described how he was unable to pass bowel movements without the help of an enema, and felt as though he was separated from the rest of the world by a veil.

Freud persuaded Wolf Man to undergo treatment until a set date, after which their sessions should cease, in the belief that his patient would lower his resistance to the therapist’s investigation. Wolf Man agreed, and described to Freud the events of his childhood.

Initially, Wolf Man had been an agreeable child but became combative when his parents returned from their travels. He had been cared for by a new nanny whilst they had been absent and his parents blamed their relationship for his misbehavior. He also recalled developing a fear of wolves, and his sister would taunt him with an illustration in a picture book. However, Wolf Man’s fears extended towards other creatures, including beetles, caterpillars and butterflies. On one occasion, whilst he was pursuing a butterfly, fear overcame him and he was forced to end his pursuit. The man’s conflicting account suggested an early alternation between a phobia of, and taunting of, insects and animals such as horses.

Wolf Man’s unusual behavior was not limited to a fear of animals, and he developed a zealous religious worship routine, kissing every icon in the house before bed time, whilst experiencing blasphemous thoughts.

Wolf Man recalled a dream which had caused him some distress when he had awoken. In the dream, he was laid in bed when he looked out of the window and noticed six or seven white wolves sat in a tree outside. The wolves, which had tails that did not match their bodies, were watching him in his room.

Freud linked this nightmare to a story which Wolf Man’s grandfather had told him, in which a wolf named Reynard lost his tail whilst using it as bait for fishing. He believed that Wolf Man suffered from castration anxiety, which explained the fox-like tails of the wolves in the dream, and his fear of caterpillars, which he used to dissect. The man had also witnessed his father chopping a snake into pieces, which Freud believed had contributed to this anxiety.

Read more about Wolf Man here

The obsessive thoughts of Rat Man were discussed in 1909 paper Notes upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis . Rat Man’s true identity is unclear, but many believe him to have been Ernst Lanzer (1978-1914), a law graduate of the University of Vienna.

Rat Man suffered from obsessive thoughts for years and underwent hydrotherapy before consulting Freud in 1907, having been impressed by the understanding that the psychoanalyst had professed in his published works. The subject of his thoughts would often involve a sense of anxiety that misfortune would affect a close friend or relative and he felt that he needed to carry out irrational behavior in order to prevent such a mishap from occurring. The irrationality of such thoughts was demonstrated by his fears for the death of his father, which continued even after his father had passed away.

Freud used techniques such as free association in order to uncover repressed memories . Rat Man’s recollection of past events also proved useful to Freud. He described one occasion during his military service, when a colleague revealed to him the morbid details of a torture method that he had learnt of. This form of torture involved placing a container of live rats onto a person and allowing the animals to escape the only way that they could - by burrowing through the victim.

This description stayed with Rat Man and he began to fear that this torture would be imposed upon a relative or friend. He convinced himself that the only way to prevent it would be to pay an officer whom he believed had collected a parcel for him from the post office. When he was prevented from satisfying this need, Rat Man began to feel increasingly anxious until his colleagues agreed to travel to the post office with him in order for the officer to be paid in the order that Rat Man felt was necessary.

Freud attributed Rat Man’s anxieties to a sense of guilt resulting from a repressed desire that he had experienced whilst younger to see women he knew unclothed. As our ego develops, our moral conscience leads us to repress the unreasonable or unacceptable desires of the id , and in the case of Rat Man, these repressed thoughts left behind “ ideational content ” in the conscious. As a result, the subject of anxiety and guilt that he felt whilst younger was replaced with fear of misfortune occurring when he was older.

Read more about Rat Man here

Other Influential Accounts

Whilst Freud saw many clients at his practise in Vienna, and cases such as Wolf Man, Rat Man and Dora are well documented, the psychoanalyst also applied psychodynamic theory to his interpretation of other patients, such Anna O, a client of his friend, Josef Breuer. The autobiographical account of Dr. Daniel Schreber also formed the basis of a 1911 paper by Freud detailing his interpretation of the man’s fantasies.

Anna O (a pseudonym for Austrian feminist Bertha Pappenheim) was a patient of Freud’s close friend, physician Josef Breuer. Although Freud never personally treated her (Anna’s story was relayed to him by Breuer), the woman’s case proved to be influential in the development of his psychodynamic theories. Freud and Breuer published a joint work on hysteria, Studies on Hysteria , in 1895, in which Anna O’s case was discussed.

Seeking treatment from Breur for hysteria in 1880, Anna O experienced paralysis in her right arm and leg, hydrophobia (an aversion to water) which left her unable to drink for long periods, along with involuntary eye movements, including a squint. She also found herself mixing languages whilst speaking to carers and would see hallucinations such as those of black snakes and skeletons, and would wake anxiously from her daytime sleep with cries of “tormenting, tormenting”.

During her talks with Breuer, Anna enjoyed telling fairytale-like stories, which would often involve sitting next to the bedside of a sick person. A dream that she recalled was also of a similar nature: she was sat next to the bed of an ill person in bed when a black snake approached the invalid. Anna wanted to protect the person from the snake but felt paralysed and was unable to warn off the snake.

Freud and Breuer considered the subject of this dream to be linked to an earlier experience. Prior to her own illness, Anna’s father had contracted tuberculosis and she had spent considerable lengths of time caring for him by his bedside. During this period, Anna had fallen ill, preventing her from accompanying her father in his final days and he passed away on April 1881. The trauma of caring for her father may have affected Anna, and Breuer believed that the paralysis she experienced in reality was a result of that which she had experienced in the dream. Furthermore, he linked her hydrophobia to another traumatic event some time previously, when she had witnessed a dog drinking from a glass of water that she was supposed to use. The revulsion she felt had stayed with her and manifested in a later aversion to water.

The conscious realisation of the causes behind her suffering, according to Breuer, helped Anna to make a recovery in 1882. She valued the “talking therapy” that he had provided, describing their sessions as “chimney sweeping”.

Read more about Anna O here

Dr. Daniel Schreber

Freud’s interpretation of client’s past experiences and dreams was not limited to the patients he saw at his Vienna clinic. German judge Dr. Daniel Schreber (1842-1911) wrote a book, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (1903) - in which he detailed the fantasies that he experienced during the second of three periods of illness - whilst confined in the asylum of Sonnenstein Castle.

Upon reading the book, Freud offered his own thoughts on the causes of Schreber’s fantasies, which were published in his 1911 paper Notes upon an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia (dementia paranoides) .

Initially suffering whilst standing as a candidate in the 1884 Reichstag elections, Schreber had begun to experience hypochondria, for which he sought the help of Professor Paul Flechsig. After six months, treatment ended, but he returned to Flechsig in 1893, bothered again by hypochondria and now sleeplessness also. Schreber recalled thoughts during a half-asleep state in which he noted that “it really must be very nice to be a woman submitting to the act of copulation” (Freud, 1911). He would eventually turn against Professor Flechsig, accusing him of being a “soul murderer”, and thoughts of emasculation also developed into extended fantasies - Schreber convinced himself that he had been assigned a role of savior of the world, and that he must be turned in a woman in order for God to impregnate with him, creating a new generation which would repopulate the planet.

In his response to Schreber’s account, Freud focussed on the religious nature of the fantasies. Whilst Schreber was agnostic, his thoughts suggested religious doubts and what Freud described as “redeemer delusion” - a sense of being elevated to the role of redeemer of the world. The process of emasculation that Schreber felt was necessary was attributed by Freud to “homosexual impulses”, which the psychoanalyst suggests were directed towards the man’s father and brother. However, feelings of guilt for experiencing such desires led to them being repressed.

Freud also understood Schreber’s sense of resentment towards Flechsig in terms of transference - his feelings towards his brother had been subconsciously transferred to the professor, whilst those towards his father had been transferred to a godly figure.

Read more about Daniel Schreber here

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little hans case study freud

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The Case Of Little Hans

How Freud used a boy's horse phobia to support his theories.

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Freud (1909)

Last updated 10 Feb 2023

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Analysis of a Phobia of a Five-Year Old Boy.

Background & Aim

Little Hans’ father was a supporter of Freud and when his son developed a phobia, he referred him to Freud. Freud agreed to help and believed Hans’ phobia was due to things going on in his unconscious mind. Freud used the study of Little Hans to support his views on the origins of phobias, childhood sexuality and the Oedipus complex , as well as his belief in psychoanalysis as an effective therapy. Freud believed Hans’ fears, dreams and fantasies were symbolic of his unconscious passing through the phallic stage of psychosexual development .

little hans case study freud

As this was a detailed study of a single individual (Little Hans was Herbert Graf) over a period of time, we can classify it as a longitudinal case study . The study describes Hans’ fears from when he was three years old until he was five. He was five years old at the time of this study, but historical information from when Little Hans was three years old was also used. Qualitative data was gathered by Little Hans’ father through observations of and conversations with his son. This information was then sent to Freud by letter, who replied with interpretations of Hans’ behaviour and with advice.

During his correspondences with Freud, Hans’ father reported some of the following information about his son: Just before the age of three, Hans started to develop an active interest in his ‘widdler’ and he started to masturbate. This caused his mother to threaten to send for Dr A. to cut it off. At three and a half Hans’ sister Hanna was born; he resented her and hoped she would drown in the bath. A short time afterwards Hans developed a fear of white horses and being bitten by them. This seemed to relate to two key incidents: Firstly, overhearing a man say to his child “Don’t put your finger to the white horse or it will bite you”; secondly, seeing a horse that was pulling a carriage fall down. As a result, Hans’ phobia was generalised to carts and buses.

It was also reported that before and after the development of the phobia, Hans was anxious that his mother would leave and he experienced fantasies including one about a giraffe, two plumber fantasies and finally a parenting fantasy. The analysis/ investigation of Little Hans ended soon after the final fantasy when the phobia stopped due to the help he was given by Freud.

The information about Little Hans was analysed by Freud and he came up with the following findings: Because Han’s was experiencing the Oedipus complex (a sexual desire for his mother and rivalry with his father) he was subconsciously scared of his father. This fear was manifested in a fear of horses, particularly those with dark around the mouth (representing his father’s beard) and blinkers (which represented his glasses). Hans’ obsession with his ‘widdler’ was another sign of being in the phallic stage of development and experiencing the Oedipus complex. Other behaviours relating to the Oedipus Complex also included the giraffe fantasy which represented the desire to take his mother away from his father; the plumber fantasy was interpreted as him identifying with his father, as was the fantasy of becoming a father. The final family fantasy was interpreted as the resolution of the Oedipus Complex.

Conclusions

Freud concluded that the study of Little Hans provided support for his theory of psychosexual development and childhood sexuality, including the idea that boys in the phallic stage experience the Oedipus complex. He also concluded that phobias are caused by unconscious anxiety being displaced onto harmless external objects. Furthermore, Hans is an example of unconscious determinism which suggests that people are not consciously aware of the causes of their behaviour. Finally, Freud claims that psychoanalysis was an effective treatment for Little Hans because it identifies the unconscious cause of the abnormality which is then brought into the conscious to be discussed and resolved.

A strength of the case study method is that in-depth qualitative data can be gained through various methods such as observations and interviews. This allowed Freud to make detailed conclusions. However, as the data was gained by Hans’ father, who was also a fan of Freud, it may lack objectivity. There may also have been bias in the questions that were asked and in the recording of the data.

Furthermore, as the sample was only a single individual the study lacks population validity and therefore it is questionable as to whether the findings concerning the Oedipus Complex and psychosexual development can be generalised to all children. This is especially true as Hans was a middle class European boy in the early 20 th Century. It can be suggested that this study and much of Freud’s other research is ethnocentric.

As Little Hans was a five-year old boy he was unable to give informed consent; however, Hans’ father clearly did. Some of the questions Hans’ father asked his son may have caused psychological harm and the detailed description of Hans’ personal information within the research article would be invasion of privacy. On the other hand, Hans’ father was very open with his son and told him that notes he was taking were for the professor who was going to fix Hans’ ‘nonsense’, which he seemed to do!

  • Unconscious
  • Psychosexual

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Freud (1909) – little hans.

Freud, S. (1909) Analysis of a phobia of a five-year old boy. The Pelican Library, Vol. 8, Case Histories, p. 169-306

This is the classic individual differences psychology study which you will look at for your H167 AS OCR Psychology exam. You will also need this study for your OCR H567 A Level Psychology core studies exam.

The theme of the individual differences psychology studies in the H167 exam is understanding disorders.  This study by Freud (1909) focuses on Little Hans’ Phobia.  

If you want to further your understanding of this case, consider reading the entire case history written by Freud: Case Histories I: ‘Dora’ and ‘Little Hans’ (The Penguin Freud Library, Vol. 8)

What theory is the research based on?

Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual development

Freud’s theory of psychosexual development considers both nature and nuture. Nature is considered because the stages of psychosexual development occur with maturation at specific ages and nuture because the individual reactions during these stages are affected by how the individual is treated.

Freud’s Psychosexual Stages

Freud proposed five stages of psychosexual development:

  • Oral Stage (Birth – 1 year)
  • Anal Stage (1 – 3 years)
  • Phallic Stage (3 – 5/6 years)
  • Latency Stage (5/6 – Puberty)
  • Genital Stage (Puberty – Adulthood)

The Oedipus Complex

According to Freud the Oedipus Complex occurs in boys in the phallic stage. This complex is based on the play by Sophocles: Oedipus the King, wherein Oedipus falls in love with his mother and kills his father. According to Freud, the oedipus complex is the unconscious motivation to sexual possess one’s mother. Girls may be affected by the Electra complex, which is the unconscious motivation to sexual possess one’s father, which also occurs in the phallic stage.

Little Hans

Little Hans before his phobia developed was described as a cheerful and straightforward child. During this case study, Hans’ was between 3 and 5 five years old. Hans’ father first started documenting Hans’ behaviour when he was 3 years old and was starting to develop his theory.

Freud suggested that when Hans began to develop symptoms of his phobia, he started to develop a difference between what he said and what he thought. Freud suggested that Hans had unconscious thoughts which were causing his Phobia.

Aim of the Study

Freud aimed to both document the case of Little Hans’ and to provide support for his Psychoanalytic theory, especially to provide support for the phallic stage of his stages of psychosexual development.

Method and Design

Freud did not actually work with Little Hans in person, but instead Hans’ father wrote letters to Freud about Hans’ behaviour. Hans’ father acted as a proxy to Freud and observed Hans’ and asked him questions, all of which were the relayed to Freud via the letters.

This study is considered a longitudinal  case study,  but it also contains observations and elements of interviews.

It is important to note that Hans’ father was a supporter of Freud’s theories. Why might this affect the results?

Sample and Sampling Method

Freud (1909) was a study of one Austrian boy.

For the duration study when Freud was involved, Hans’ was five years old. Although, as mentioned previously, Hans’ father documented Hans’ behaviour from age 3.

Just before turning 3, Hans’ started showing interest in his ‘widdler’ (penis) and the presence/absence of this organ in others – human and non-human.

At this time he had a tendency to masturbate, bringing threats from his mother to send for Dr A. to cut it off.

When he was three and a half, Hans gained a baby sister, Hanna, whom he resented and subsequently, subconsciously, wished his mother would drop in the bath so she would drown.

Hans’ and his family lived opposed a busy place which had many coaches (drawn by horses, remember this is in the early 1900s in Vienna).

Later Hans developed a fear of being bitten by white horses. This seemed to be linked to two incidents:

  • Overhearing a father say to a child, “Don’t put your finger to the white horse or it will bite you.”
  • Seeing a horse that was pulling a carriage fall down and kick about with its legs.

His fear was then generalised to carts and buses.

Both before and after the development of the phobias (of the bath and horses), Hans was both anxious his mother would go away and prone to fantasies and daydreams. These included: – The giraffe fantasy. – Two plumber fantasies. – The parenting fantasy.

The Giraffe Fantasy

Hans told his father about his Giraffe fantasy, which involved two giraffes. One of the giraffes was big and the other one was crumpled (Freud suggests that the big giraffe was an unconscious manifestation of Hans’s father and the crumpled one was an unconscious manifestation of Hans’ mother).

In the fantasy, Hans’ took the crumpled giraffe away from the big one which caused the big one to call out. Then Hans sat on top of the crumpled Giraffe.

Two Plumber Fantasies 

The first plumber fantasy: Hans was in the bath and a plumber came and unscrewed it. The plumber took a big borer and stuck it in his stomach. A Borer is a tool used by plumbers which is similar to a corkscrew.

The second plumber fantasy: The plumber in this fantasy took away Hans’ behind and widdler (penis) with a pair of pliers and replaced both his behind and his widdler with bigger ones.

The Parenting Fantasy

The parenting fantasy: Hans’ describes a fantasy where he is married to his mother with children, but Hans’ father is now the grandfather as opposed to being Hans’ father. Think about how this relates to the Oedipus complex which was mentioned earlier.

Having received ‘help’ from his father and Freud, after the parenting fantasy, both the ‘illness’ and analysis came to an end.

Results – Freud’s Interpretations

Little Hans’ fear of horses was considered by Freud as a subconscious fear of his father. This because the dark around the mouth of a horse + the blinkers resembled the moustache and glasses worn by his father. He was fearful of his father because he was experiencing the Oedipus complex.

Hans’ fascination with his ‘widdler’ was because he was experiencing the Oedipus complex.

Giraffe Fantasy

Hans’ daydream about giraffes was a representation of him trying to take his mother away from his father so he could have her to himself – another feature of the Oedipus complex.

Parenting Fantasy

Hans’ fantasy of becoming a father with his mother, suggested to Freud (1909), further evidence of the Oedipus complex.

Hans’ fantasies about the plumber was interpreted as him now identifying with his father and the final family fantasy was interpreted as the resolution of the Oedipus Complex.

Conclusions

Freud concluded that his study of Hans provided support for:

  • His theory of psychosexual development / infant sexuality.
  • His suggestion that boys in the phallic stage of psychosexual development experience the Oedipus complex.
  • The nature of phobias and his theory that they are the product of unconscious anxiety displaced onto harmless external objects.
  • His concept of unconscious determinism which holds that people are not consciously aware of the causes of their behaviour.
  • His use of psychoanalytic therapy to treat disturbed thoughts, feelings and behaviours by firstly identifying the unconscious cause(s) of the disturbance and them bringing them into the conscious so they can be discussed and resolved.

Freud (1909) Evaluation

– Unfalsifiability – one of the biggest problems with Freud (1909) and Freud’s theories in general is they are unfalsifiable, which means they are not scientific, as they cannot be proved wrong.

+ Usefulness – Freud’s study of Little Hans and his theories have proved useful for helping people deal with issues and for developing psychology into the study of the mind as opposed to studying reaction times.

– Bias and subjectivity – All of the data in Freud (1909) was gathered by Hans’ father, who was a supporter of Freud’s work. As a result, he may have only documented Hans’ behaviours which provided support for Freud’s theory. Furthermore, Freud’s interpretation of Little Hans’ behaviour is highly subjective.

– Generalisability – as the sample of the study only consisted of one little boy from Austria, it is difficult to generalise the results of this study to other children with phobias.

+ Ethics – Hans was protected from harm during this study.

Freud Exam Tips

When answering any question on Freud in your H167 or H567 exam, try to use the word ‘unconscious’.

Further Reading

Case Histories I: ‘Dora’ and ‘Little Hans’ (The Penguin Freud Library, Vol. 8)

Psych Yogi’s Top Ten Psychology Revision Tips for the A* Student

Re-reading "Little Hans": Freud's case study and the question of competing paradigms in psychoanalysis

Affiliation.

  • 1 Marlborough Family Service, London, England. [email protected]
  • PMID: 16773821
  • DOI: 10.1177/00030651060540021601

Psychoanalysts have long recognized the complex interaction between clinical data and formal psychoanalytic theories. While clinical data are often used to provide "evidence" for psychoanalytic paradigms, the theoretical model used by the analyst also structures what can and cannot be seen in the data. This delicate interaction between theory and clinical data can be seen in the history of interpretations of Freud's "Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy" ("Little Hans"). Freud's himself revised his reading of the case in 1926, after which a number of psychoanalysts--including Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, and John Bowlby--reinterpreted the case in the light of their particular models of the mind. These analysts each found "evidence" for their theoretical model within this classic case study, and in doing so they illuminated aspects of the case that had previously been obscured, while also revealing a great deal about the shifting preoccupations of psychoanalysis as a field.

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Child, Preschool
  • Freudian Theory*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy / methods*

The Curious Case of Little Hans

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little hans case study freud

The Domestic Economy of the Soul: Freud's Five Case Studies

  • By: John O'Neill
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd
  • Publication year: 2011
  • Online pub date: June 19, 2012
  • Discipline: Sociology
  • Subject: Psychoanalytic Psychology , Science, Technology & Society , Psychoanalysis & Psychodynamic Counseling
  • DOI: https:// doi. org/10.4135/9781446252147
  • Keywords: asylum , dreams , hysteria , psychoanalysis , rats , soul , wolves Show all Show less
  • Print ISBN: 9781849205856
  • Online ISBN: 9781446252147
  • Buy the book icon link

Subject index

This is the first major analysis of Freud's five celebrated case studies of Little Hans, Dora, the Rat Man, the Wolf Man and Schreber. O'Neill sets out the details of each case and critically engages with the narratives using a mixture of psychoanalytical insight and social theory. The book provides a clear and powerful account of the five major case studies that helped to establish the Freud legend; situates the cases and the analysis into the appropriate social and historical contexts; offers distinctive interpretations of the symptomatic body, of illness as a language, dream work and the Madonna complex; and challenges us to revisit the canonical texts of psychoanalysis. The book will be of interest to students of psychoanalysis, social theory and sociology.

Front Matter

  • Theory, Culture & Society
  • Acknowledgements
  • Publisher's Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Love Stories
  • The Body-Soul of Psychoanalysis
  • Chapter 1: Freud's Baby – Little Hans (1909)
  • Putting the Cart before the Horse
  • Chapter 2: Opening the Dora Case (1905 [1901])
  • Dora's Dreams
  • Portraits of Dora
  • Dora's Sistine Madonna
  • Chapter 3: Rat Man's Lady (1909)
  • A Case of Blindness and (in)Sight
  • Chorisis versus Cartography
  • Catching Rat Man's Train of Thought
  • Rat Man's (mis)Marriage
  • Chapter 4: Wolf Man's Wake (1918 [1914])
  • Supplement and Rectification
  • Wolf Man's Cryptology
  • Chapter 5: Schreber's Blessed Assumption (1911 [1910])
  • Schreber's Unmanning/Gynesis
  • Schreber's Swan Song

Back Matter

  • Concluding Postscript: The Debts of Psychoanalysis
  • Bibliography

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IMAGES

  1. B2d1 little hans

    little hans case study freud

  2. Freud's Case Study of Little Hans Summary

    little hans case study freud

  3. The Curious Case of Little Hans

    little hans case study freud

  4. Little Hans: A Freudian Case Study on the Oedipus Complex

    little hans case study freud

  5. The Curious Case of Little Hans

    little hans case study freud

  6. Sigmund Freud's Little Hans

    little hans case study freud

VIDEO

  1. the cute little monk 🎋🎋 #cute #ytshorts #cute #viral #trendingshorts

COMMENTS

  1. Little Hans

    January 25, 2024 Reviewed by Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc On This Page: Background Case History Little Hans' Phobia Freud's Interpretation of Hans' Phobia Critical Evaluation Case Study Summary Little Hans was a 5-year-old boy with a phobia of horses. Like all clinical case studies, the primary aim was to treat the phobia.

  2. The Case of Little Hans

    The case of Little Hans is perhaps the best known of Sigmund Freud 's case studies. The study details the life of a five year old boy whose father sought help from Freud for his fear of horses.

  3. The Case Of Little Hans: Explanation, Freud, Summary & Ethics

    1 / 3 Did Little Hans' case study provide supporting evidence of the psychosexual stages of development? Yes. No. Learn with 36 The Case Of Little Hans flashcards in the free StudySmarter app Freud tried to treat Little Hans directly. Is this true or false? False. True. Learn with 36 The Case Of Little Hans flashcards in the free StudySmarter app

  4. Case Studies: Little Hans

    Case Studies: Little Hans - Sigmund Freud August 10, 2019August 21, 2022 Written by Richard Bukowski Little Hans Herbert Graf (1903 - 1973) In the early 20th century Sigmund Freud was under pressure to provide evidence to support his theories from client cases.

  5. Re-Reading "Little Hans": Freud's Case Study and the Question of

    1 Jean Bergeret (1987) has speculated that Hans's mother may have been the real figure behind the "Katharina" of Freud's Studies on Hysteria (Breuer and Freud 1895), but this view is based more on thematic similarities than on any historical evidence and would seem to clash with Anny Katan's view that Mrs. Graf was still in analysis with Freud a...

  6. Sigmund Freud's Little Hans

    The study of Little Hans is a case study written by Sigmund Freud in 1909. It offers a detailed interpretation of Hans' phobia of horses by drawing on Freud's theory of the Oedipus...

  7. The Curious Case of Little Hans

    The Curious Case of Little Hans Learning session outline This learning session tells the story of one of Freud's most famous cases. Format: Zoom meeting OR in-person session Duration: 60 minutes Cost: £150 (in person, plus admission)* / £100 (online)** Suitability: KS5*** Availability: Monday-Friday

  8. PDF Freud's Baby

    Freud's Baby - Little Hans (1909) The case of Little Hans - Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy (1909) - rejuvenates psychoanalysis. It offers the possibility of seeing in the first light of day a primal history that in the other case histo-ries can only be inferred retrospectively and perhaps appear to be

  9. Little Hans and Freud's Self-Analysis: A Biographical View of Clinical

    A fresh look at the case of Little Hans. In Freud and His Patients, ed. M. Kanzer & J. Glenn. New York: Aronson, pp. 95—120. Google Scholar. ... Freud's Five Case Studies. 2011. SAGE Knowledge. Whole book . The Domestic Economy of the Soul: Freud's Five Case Studies. Show details Hide details.

  10. Case Studies of Sigmund Freud

    Perhaps the best known case study published by Freud was of Little Hans. Little Hans was the son of a friend and follower of Freud, music critic Max Graf. Graf's son, Herbert, witnessed a tragic accident in which a horse carrying a heavily loaded cart collapsed in the street.

  11. PDF Aim: To monitor the development of a child up to around 5 years

    The details of this case study would provide the evidence Freud believed to support his Oedipus complex. The data came from the letters Little Hans' father would send Freud, and also on the very few occasions Freud met with Hans. Little Hans himself actually asked his father to tell Freud a few things, also.

  12. Freud (1909)

    Freud (1909) Method As this was a detailed study of a single individual (Little Hans was Herbert Graf) over a period of time, we can classify it as a longitudinal case study. The study describes Hans' fears from when he was three years old until he was five.

  13. Re-Reading "Little Hans": Freud's Case Study and the Question of

    Freud Re-Reading "Little Hans": Freud's Case Study and the Question of Competing Paradigms in Psychoanalysis Authors: Nick Midgley University College London Abstract Psychoanalysts...

  14. PDF [1909] Analysis Of A Phobia In A Five-Year-Old Boy (the Little Hans

    The case history is not, strictly speaking, derived from my own observation. ... I received at regular intervals about little Hans soon began to take a prominent place. His parents were both ... Since this was written, the study of the castration complex has been further developed in contributions to the subject by Lou Andreas-Salomé, A ...

  15. Little Hans: A Centennial Review and Reconsideration

    Freud's "Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy" (1909) has stimulated interminable "reanalysis." The case of Little Hans, an unprecedented experimental child analytic treatment, is reexamined in the light of newer theory and newly derestricted documents.

  16. BBC Radio 4

    Case Study: Little Hans. A phobia of horses developed by a boy living in Vienna in 1904 seemed unlikely evidence for the Oedipus complex. But for Sigmund Freud, this was the proof he had been ...

  17. Freud (1909)

    This study by Freud (1909) focuses on Little Hans' Phobia. If you want to further your understanding of this case, consider reading the entire case history written by Freud: Case Histories I: 'Dora' and 'Little Hans' (The Penguin Freud Library, Vol. 8) What theory is the research based on? Freud's Theory of Psychosexual development

  18. Trauma and Abuse in the Case of Little Hans: A Contemporary Perspective

    Abstract. Newly available interviews with Max and Herbert Graf describe the severe pathology of Little Hans's mother and her mistreatment of her husband and her daughter, who committed suicide as an adult. Reread in this context, the text of "A Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy" provides ample evidence of Frau Graf's sexual seduction and ...

  19. Re-reading "Little Hans": Freud's case study and the question of

    Freud's himself revised his reading of the case in 1926, after which a number of psychoanalysts--including Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, and John Bowlby--reinterpreted the case in the light of their particular models of the mind.

  20. The Curious Case of Little Hans

    8 minutes Have you ever heard about the curious case of Little Hans? This was one of Sigmund Freud's most famous cases. Keep reading to learn more. Have you ever heard about the curious case of Little Hans? This intriguing case is perhaps the best known of Sigmund Freud's case studies.

  21. The Domestic Economy of the Soul: Freud's Five Case Studies

    This is the first major analysis of Freud's five celebrated case studies of Little Hans, Dora, the Rat Man, the Wolf Man and Schreber. O'Neill sets out the details of each case and critically engages with the narratives using a mixture of psychoanalytical insight and social theory.

  22. Psychology Corner: Little Hans. (My favourite Freud case study)

    In the case of Little Hans, Freud used this specific case to support his theories on child development. However, it is important to acknowledge that case studies should not be used to make broad ...

  23. Little Hans: A Freudian Case Study on the Oedipus Complex

    Case studies by Freud: https://amzn.to/3hZtqN2This video goes over one of Freud's case studies - that of Little Hans. This case study is quite a good example...