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Melitta Schmideberg Klein Biography

Melitta Schmideberg Klein

Melitta Schmideberg Klein was born in January 1904 in Ružomberok, a town in Slovakia.

In 1910, when she was 6 years old, her parents moved to Budapest, where she grew up and did her first studies.

She lived for 79 years and died in London in February 1983.


Her mother was Melanie Klein, an Austrian-British psychoanalyst who was the founder of the Child Analysis.

Her father was the Austrian engineer Arthur Stevan Klein. Melitta Schmideberg Klein had two brothers Eric and Hans Klein.

After her parents’ separation in 1917, her mother moved back to Ružomberok, where Melitta graduated from high school in 1921.

Her mother, Melanie Klein, analysed Melitta when she was a child. Melanie briefly mentioned this psychoanalytic observation in the second part of her first article – “The Development of a Child” (1921).


After enrolling at Ružomberok University, Melitta joined her mother in Berlin, who trained as a psychoanalyst and had a great influence on the Berlin psychoanalysts.

Melitta studied medicine at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität and majored in psychiatry at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute.

There, she met the Austro-American psychoanalyst Walter Schmideberg, a member of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society, they later married in 1924.

Relationship with her mother

In a letter, probably at the end of the summer of 1934, Melitta Schmideberg Klein revealed to her mother, Melanie Klein, the need to free herself from the state of neurotic dependence on her. This desire for freedom became an unrelenting hate.

She became incredibly critical of Melanie Klein’s work and contributions in psychoanalysis.

Melitta exposed the case of a girl, Viviane, whose anxieties were very similar to those described by Melanie Klein in her articles in which she disclosed her analysis performed on her daughter that unveiled Melitta’s difficulties as a child.

Melitta Schmideberg Klein took up analysis with Edward Glover to work on her dependence on her mother. She expected that her mother would feel compassionate, but Melanie Klein reacted badly to it.

Soon after, Melitta became very critical of her mother as well as her work and contributions at the London Psychoanalytic Society. Her analyst, Glover, was opposed to Melanie Klein too.


Due to the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s, Melitta moved to London in 1932 and became a British citizen, where she became an associate member of the British Psychoanalytic Society in 1932, and then became a full member in 1933.

Life in the US

After the Second World War, Melitta Schmideberg Klein went to the United States, distancing herself from the London Psychoanalytic Society.

In New York City, she started working with prison inmates and founded the Association for the Psychiatric Treatment of Offenders, she also co-founded the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology giving up her professional practice as a psychoanalyst.

She became a U.S. citizen in 1959. After the death of her mother Melanie Klein in 1960, Schmideberg Klein returned to London, where she also worked in the treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners.

Melitta Schmideberg Klein psychoanalytic contributions

  • Explored the role of anxiety in psychosis and criminality.

  • Developed the theory of stable instability to outline borderline personality disorder.

  • Researched the effects of war trauma on children and adults.

  • Used psychoanalysis in criminology and social work. 

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