Charlotte Buhler, née Malachowski, was born to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. She studied natural sciences and humanities at the universities of Berlin and Freiburg, and received her doctorate from the University of Munich in 1918. One of her fist publications was Das Märchen und die Phantasie des Kindes (The Fairy Tale and the Imagination of the Child), which appeared that same year. In 1916, she married Karl Buhler, a noted psychologist and linguist with whom she had two children. She went to teach and continue her research at the Technical University of Dresden. There she explored the process of infant and child development and designed tests to measure developmental milestones that are still in use today. In 1923, the couple moved to Vienna to work at the newly-established Vienna Psychological Institute. In 1929, she was promoted to associate professor at the University of Vienna. She became world famous through her research and many publications that led to the development of humanistic child psychology. In 1938, following the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by Nazi Germany, she and her husband were targeted and they fled to the USA. They held positions in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and California. She served as the chief psychologist at Los Angeles County General Hospital, and as a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Southern California before retiring in 1950 to private practice. Following the death of her husband, she returned to Germany in 1972 to spend her last years near her son.
Her numerous books included Soziologische und psychologische Studien ueber das erste Lebensjahr (published in English as The First Year of Human Life, 1930), Kind und Familie (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 (1972). The Charlotte Bühler Institute in Vienna was named in her honor.