Melanie Klein’s theories

Melanie Klein took psychoanalytic thinking in a new direction by recognising the importance of our earliest childhood experiences in the formation of our adult emotional world.

Extending and developing Sigmund Freud’s ideas, Klein drew on her analysis of children’s play to formulate new concepts such as the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position. Radical and controversial at the time, her theories remain at the core of an evolving and flourishing body of Kleinian thought.

Find out more about the main concepts developed by Klein, and by new generations of psychoanalysts who have been inspired by her ideas.

Definitions are reproduced from The New Dictionary of Kleinian Thought by Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Jane Milton, Penelope Garvey, Cyril Couve and Deborah Steiner (Routledge, 2011).

The images below are of drawings, paintings and paper cut-outs created by Klein’s child patients during analysis with her. They are reproduced courtesy of the Wellcome Library, which hosts the Klein archive.