Genie: A Tale of a Feral Child

By: Alyssa Yuvienco

Genie was an extreme case of child neglect. Authorities rescued young Genie in 1970, who was found strapped to a potty chair at age 13, locked inside her bedroom, the place where she had been isolated into nearly all of her thirteen-years of life.

In 1997, Susan Curtiss explained the case of Genie: “The case name is Genie. This is not the person’s real name, but when we think about what a genie is, a genie is a creature that comes out of a bottle or whatever, but emerges into human society past childhood. We assume that it really isn’t a creature that had a human childhood,” in a Nova documentary titled Secrets of the Wild Child.

She was an extreme case. She had a gait of a bunny rabbit and clawed instead of grabbed. Everything about her was wild. One thing was certain- she needed help. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists, and much more health-care professionals came to the rescue.

Her story documented one of the worst cases of child abuse and neglect. Her experiences however led to many cases.

Scientists studied her behavior in order to understand the complex nature of child development- specifically how critical nurturing is to child development and the possible critical window of time for this nurturing. While the conclusions are not entirely clear, the fact that Genie could acquire vocabulary but never grammar shows a critical period for language development.

Genie- a neglected child, isolated from the world, has turned into a great project and furthermore, example of how health science is concerned for not only current patients, but others as well. It all seems to be interconnected-

This case, like all other cases in history, show the powerful impact that people can have on others. If it wasn’t for Genie’s isolation, she may have been “normal.” She may have been a girl with rosy red cheeks smiling at a video camera hoping to please her parents. Further, if it weren’t for authorities, her life would not have changed- she would have continued to be isolated. And if it weren’t for the health care professionals, she would not have been cared for. She would not have any one to seek answers. If it weren’t for Genie, then heath care would not have had the background for further cases of child neglect, isolation, or language development.

 


Works Cited:

http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/genie.htm

 

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