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Freud (1909)
In specific terms this study investigates the causes of a phobia of horses in a five-year-old
More generally it is a detailed account of the development of one child and allowed Freud to
test his theory of infantile sexuality, the Oedipus complex and the use of psychoanalytic
theory in general.
Information on the Experiment
The study used conversations between Hans and his dad and observations.
This is a longitudinal study.
· One child referred as Little Hans
· Aged three at the start of the study (1906)
· Aged five when the reports of the phobia of horses were first made
Case study (Freud's only case study of a child)
Hans's parents were great admirers of Freud's work and were attempting to bring Hans up
in a relatively liberal way (for the time) in the hope that he would no develop any of the
neuroses described by Freud in his earlier books
Letters from Han's father to Freud describing his child's behaviour
Freud would reply with his interpretations.
Some of the behaviours (in order of occurrence) together with Freud's interpretations:
Behaviour Interpretation
Interest in his `widdler' Evidence for Phallic stage of development
Desire to get into bed with Evidence for Oedipus complex (desire for mother)
Fear of bath Unconscious fear the mother loved Hans' baby sister more than
him and thus would not hold on to him as tightly in the bath and he
might slip and drown
Fear of white horses Symbolic of fear of his father (evidence of castration anxiety seen
during Phallic stage of development)

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Fantasy about giraffes Evidence for Oedipus complex (fantasy of taking mother away
from father)
Fantasy about being his own Evidence for Oedipus complex (desire to replace father in
father mother's affection) and start of resolution of Oedipus complex
Fantasy about plumber giving Wanting to be like his father (evidence for possible resolution of
him `a bigger widdler and Oedipus complex)
o The original case study is over 100 pages long and makes up only a tiny part of Freud's
writing.…read more


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