Genie (Feral Child)

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Genie (feral child)

Genie (born 1957) is the pseudonym of a feral child who was a victim of severe abuse, neglect and social isolation. Her circumstances are prominently recorded in the annals of abnormal child psychology. When Genie was a baby her father decided that she was severely mentally retarded, causing him to dislike her and withhold care and attention. At approximately the time she reached the age of 20 months Genie's father decided to keep her as socially isolated as possible, so from that time until she reached the age of 13 years and 7 months he kept her locked alone in a room. During this time he almost always strapped her to a child's toilet or bound her in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized, forbade anyone from interacting with her, provided her with almost no stimulation of any kind, and left her severely malnourished. The extent of Genie's isolation prevented her from being exposed to any significant amount of speech, and as a result she did not acquire language during childhood. Her abuse came to the attention of Los Angeles child welfare authorities on November 4, 1970.

In the first several years after Genie's early life and circumstances came to light, psychologists, linguists and other scientists focused a great deal of attention on Genie's case, seeing in her near-total isolation an opportunity to study many aspects of human development. Upon finding that Genie had not yet learned a language, linguists saw Genie as having the potential to be an important way to gain further insight into the processes controlling language acquisition skills and to test theories and hypotheses identifying critical periods during which humans learn to understand and use language. Throughout the time scientists studied Genie, she made substantial advances with her overall mental and psychological development. Within months of being discovered Genie had developed exceptional nonverbal communication skills and gradually learned some basic...