A feral child is a child who has grown up with none or if any, very little contact with humans. This would mean that the child has not been socialised to learn the norms and values of a human society. Feral children are usually the product of neglect , abandonment , isolation and in some cases even abuse . In some cases the children in concern have been raised by animals (dogs in particular). Because of this upbringing the child adapts the behaviour of an animal. An example of this is Oxana.
Oxana spend a large amount of her childhood surrounded by dogs, during the time Oxana spent with the dogs she began to develop characteristics which were more like the dogs rather than a human. Instead of walking on two feet like a human would, Oxana crawled on her hands and knees . Because Oxana had very little human contact she hadn’t learnt language so she communicated in barks and growls . Another example of this is Victor ‘ The wild boy of Aveyron ’ , Victor was one of the first studied feral children , he was found in france 1799 whilst foraging for roots in the woods. Victor was taken to Paris and taken into the care of Dr . Itard .
Like Oxana , Victor behaved like the animals which he was adopted by and spoke only in large shrill cries and often tried to escape. These cases are proof that our parents/guardians play a major role during the crucial learning stages in a persons childhood, as they teach primary socialisation which includes complicated skills which many people would take for granted such as language / speech . feral children often find it extremely difficult to master these skills. In other cases the child has not been taken in and raised by animals therefore is left alone with very little or no social interaction whether it be from animal or man .
For example Genie was kept in a dark isolated room in the home of her alcoholic parents for 18 months, Genie was kept harnessed to a infants potty and later moved to a sleeping bag which was drawn tightly around her . Genie had very little opportunity to overhear conversations so she never learnt language and if genie made any noise she was beaten . At the age of 13, genie was discovered she could barely walk and was the size of a seven year old . Although a large number of feral children have missed out on the critical early stages of learning ,they may make progress from their past state.
Genie began to walk unsteadily , became toilet trained and spoke single words after seven months . After 12 months Genie made further progress and began putting three words together , however she never learnt to speak in sentences or ask questions like other children . Genie made very little progress after this. Victor ‘the wild boy of Aveyron’ also had shown intellect , emotional growth and learnt how to dress himself, use the toilet and also some words but like genie made very little progress after this.
This is the result of missing the critical stage of learning. Sociologists find feral children cases interesting because it gives them an opportunity to study the human outside of the realm of society. It gives sociologists a glimpse of raw humanity without the influence of culture or language. Feral children are also very important evidence toward the ‘nature /nurture debate’ the evidence favours the nurture debate which refers to the idea that humans do and think certain things because they are taught to do so.
Feral children are evidence to this as they show that without the appropriate human socialisation they often do not develop understanding of language , emotions , a sense of right and wrong or the norms of human society such as getting dressed ect. Feral children are important in the aspect that they give sociologists and researchers an idea on what factors of a human’s behaviour is due to nature ( the biological explanation- behaviour caused by factors in genetics ) or nurture ( the explanation that behaviour is learnt) .
They are also important as they help develop theories on the evolution of language and helping breakthroughs for research concerning those with learning disabilities. Sociologists may also believe these cases to be important as they can see the impact which lack of socialisation has on the child’s brain development . Feral children have given evidence that the brain cannot develop fully without the child being socialised properly , this is shown through brain scans comparing a normal child’s brain to a severely neglected or feral child’s brain .
The neglected child's brain can be up to 30 % smaller than average. With all this said , it is clear to say that feral children are extreme cases of neglect , isolation and lack of socialisation. In order for a child to develop physically, emotionally and mentally , they need to be nurtured and cared for by some form of human parental figures . without it the child will not develop empathy , language and many other characteristics which so many of use take for granted.