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Buhler, Charlotte


BUHLER, CHARLOTTE (1893–1974), developmental and clinical psychologist. Born in Berlin, Buhler taught at the University of Vienna from 1923, becoming assistant professor in 1929. She focused her research on the cognitive and personality development of children from infancy through adolescence. She wished to create a unified theory of the psychological development of childhood that included a child's entire life experiences. When Hitler came to power, she and her husband, Dr. Karl Buhler, were arrested on racial and political grounds. They fled to the U.S. in 1938. There they held positions in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and California. Buhler served as a professor of psychology, the director of a child guidance center, and a clinical psychologist, respectively. At the University of Southern California she specialized in the study of the development of children and their social behavior in infancy. As early as the 1920s, her research and writings reflected the concept of personal fulfillment and the use of one's own special talents to attain goals. She believed that people could find personal fulfillment by using their full potential, living constructively, setting goals and assessing progress, and establishing a personal system of values. She distinguished her theories from those of traditional psychoanalytical theory by calling hers "humanism," implying that one lives with a purpose and a goal and seeks a meaning in life beyond oneself. In California she met Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, whose ideas were similar to hers. She is believed to have influenced Maslow, who is regarded as the "father of humanistic psychology." In 1950 she retired to private practice. She returned to Germany in 1972 to spend the last years of her life with her son.

Among her numerous published works are Soziologische und psychologische Studien ueber das erste Lebensjahr (1927; The First Year of Human Life, 1930); Kindheit und Jugend (1928), Kind und Familie (1937; The Child and His Family, 1939), Childhood Problems and the Teacher (1952), From Birth to Maturity (1956), The Course of Human Life: A Study of Goals in the Humanistic Perspective (1968), Psychology for Contemporary Living (1968), The Way to Fulfillment: Psychological Techniques (1971), and Introduction to Humanistic Psychology (with M. Allen, 1972).

[Helmut E. Adler /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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