Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

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Aim: Freud studied the case of Little Hans to try and understand the five-year-old boy's phobia of horses and to treat it.

Procedure: The research method was a case study, and used triangulation and dream analysis. Freud's information came from Hans's father, not from Hans himself, as the father was a follower of Freud's work. Freud met Hans twice and the study arose from Hans's mother and father documenting his development to test Freud's ideas. Freud would suggest lines of questioning to Hans's father who would talk to Hans and then write back to Freud about what had happened. 

Description of Themes: 

  • Little Hans had an interest in his 'widdler' (penis). He dreamt about widdlers and about wiping children's bottoms. Hans denied this interest and said it was only in his dreams. When younger Hans had played with his widdler and his mother had told him off for it and threatened to cut it off. 
  • Hans seemed to want his father to 'go away' on business, and when the family moved house so that his father was away less often, Hans wanted his father dead.
  • Hans was also jealous of his sister who was born when he was 3 and a half years old. The father reported that Hans was afraid of falling under the water when in his bath. Eventually Freud and Hans's father suggested to Hans that, when watching his mother bath his sister, he wished she would let his sister's head go under the water. Hans agreed this was true. 
  • Hans said that he was afraid that a white horse would bite him. It appeared that he had heard the father of a girl staying with them tell her not to 'put her finger on' the white horse that was drawing a cart to take her to the station. Hans also said that he was afraid of the 'black' on horses' mouths and things in front of their eyes (blinkers). Once when walking with his mother, he had seen a horse fall down when drawing a bus, which had made a…


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