Melanie Reizes Klein (30 March 1882 – 22 September 1960) was a Jewish psychoanalyst who devised therapeutic techniques for children that influenced child psychology and contemporary psychoanalysis. She is founder and leading innovator of object relations theory. Born in Vienna of Jewish heritage, Klein first sought psychoanalysis for herself from Sándor Ferenczi a close associate of Sigmund Freud. She became a psychoanalyst and began analysing children in 1919. She studied with and was analysed by Karl Abraham who supported her work with children. Klein was invited to come to London in 1926, where she worked until her death in 1960.
Sigmund Freud and his lesbian daughter, Anna Freud arrived in London in 1938 providing a perfect opportunity for a dialectical strategy. A conflict was fanned between Klein’s ideas and incoming Freudians. So-called ‘controversial discussions’ of the 1940’s lead to a 3 way split in the British Psychoanalytical Society. Nevertheless, the three separate training divisions: (1) Kleinian, (2) Anna Freudian, and (3) independent remained Freudian and Klein herself was a faithful adherent of Freud’s ideas. Klein was the first person to use traditional psychoanalysis with young children. Klein’s theoretical work incorporates Freud’s belief in the existence of the “death pulsation”. This suggests that all living organisms are inherently drawn toward an inorganic state, and therefore, in an unspecified sense, contain a drive towards death. Klein work directly with children, often as young as two years old and, during the late 1950s, was in close discussion with Wilfred Bion on their work with psychotic patients.