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Nurture or Nature: Tale of the Feral Girl

Last month, British child psychologist Lyn Fry, an expert on feral children, went to the Baraboy Clinic, a home for the mentally handicapped in Ukraine with a Channel Four film crew to meet 23-year-old Oxana Malaya, one of only about 100 feral children known in the world.

At the age of three, Oxana’s alcoholic parents left her unattended outside during a cold Ukrainian night. To keep warm, the young girl crawled into a kennel where the dogs were kept. When no one came to look for her for five years, the girl forgot the rudiment’s of human language and adopted the behaviors and mannerisms of the dogs she lived with. When she was found at the age of eight, she ran around on all fours, barked— not like a human pretending to bark, but like an actual dog— sniffed her food before eating it, and had developed extremely acute senses of hearing, smell, and sight.

Ms. Fry reports that Oxana’s speech is odd, with ‘no cadence or rhythm or music to her speech, no inflection or tone,’ and that ‘there is a palpable air of menace and brute strength’ about her when she jokingly pushes or shoves her friends, but otherwise the young woman has a sense of humor. Cognitive tests indicate that Oxana has the mental capacity of a six-year old and a ‘dangerously low boredom threshold.’ She can count but not add up, nor can she read or spell her name correctly. She is not autistic, as feral children are sometimes thought to be, but she has difficulty learning normally.

Oxana’s case has been of keen interest to child psychologists who believe feral children can help resolve the nature vs. nurture debate, but unfortunately Ukrainian authorities did not make detailed documentation on the girl’s physical and mental state when she was found.

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? by EyeOfSage

This is what i always wonder, animals use their sense of smell as one of the tools to distinguish other animals from their own kind. Obviously a human secretes different chemicals and will smell different, even if they do live with wolves, dogs, or monkeys for years. How come the animals do not discriminate these feral children?

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neglect by Anonymous

First off…my user name needs to be changed by the person who made my account for me …uh hem…vnutz79….it sounds like a bad porn name, yay though it’s a joke.

Next, I used to work with a child in Montana who could qualify as a "feral child". We’ll call her Tabitha. When we finally convinced the state to take Tabitha from her family and put her in a state facility (which may not have been better for her in some ways, but our options were limited) the head psychiatrist told us that "she is the closest thing to a closet child as I’ve ever seen".
In the US, we dub them closet children due to the outrageous numbers of children through our history that have been punished by parents by locking them in closets or attics. They exhibit odd social behaviors, generally lack progressive vocabulary (i.e. – 25 cent words) and in general stress situations they seem to revert to animal like behaviors.
With this particular child, where she didn’t grow up in a dog house, all we could ever do was speculate as to the circumstances that surrounded her upbringing. We suspected that Tabitha and her 2 other sisters were locked in a bedroom much of the time with a few young cats, food was withheld as a punishment and that there was physical abuse that we could never prove. It was obvious that the family was ill equipped when it came to parenting skills.
However, when stressed, between the ages of 2 and 5, Tabitha would exhibit like a monkey, stripping her clothes off, throwing feces and biting, and she would howl like a dog. At 6 and 7, the first warning sign that she was deteriorating in a situation was that she would drop her chin to her chest, squint her eyes, hiss like a cat and scratch the air in front of her as if she had claws. Sometimes she would growl. If she escalated completely, she would howl like a dog and swear. It was not just any howl either, it was perfectly pitched like she had learned it straight from the source.
When she would get excited she would pant like a dog with her tongue hanging out and walk around in circles. She loved dogs.
When I worked with Tabitha, she lived in a house with several young cats that I can imagine she learned many of her behaviors from. Whenever I saw her interact with the cats, she was always heavy handed with them and rarely failed to illicit a hiss from one of them before we could intervene. So whatever it was that she was experiencing at home that deemed such an extreme defense response, she learned it from cats and dogs. Nature nurtured.
I won’t even begin to tell you about her short attention span, capacity to learn, her expulsion from the public school system at the age of 5 for her behavior problems (or rather the school system’s inability to cope with her) and everyday interactions with her.

But, all that said, I’ll get back to nature versus nurture and a resolution.

I don’t see how science could do anything other than map genes to predetermine cognitive disfunction and physical disability and then make hypothesis from there. If they can determine that an unborn child has Downs Syndrome, then maybe one day they will be able to pre-determine mental retardation, ADD and OCD. The true problem researchers face is that the child must then go out into the world.

In my opinion, the main factors in resolving this issue are:
ï‚Ÿ the child’s innate capacity to learn and IQ
ï‚Ÿ the child’s genetically predetermined character, personality and physical traits
ï‚Ÿ all pre-birth internal stimuli – mercury, alcohol, cigarettes, folic acid, balanced nutrition
ï‚Ÿ who raises the child – man or animal
ï‚Ÿ how the child is raised
ï‚Ÿ all external stimuli
You’d need to employ a team of statisticians, psychologists, and geneticists that could fill Yankee stadium to map out what is most important in the development of a person.
The world is too random a place.

In my experience with the roughly 35 clients that I worked with, I would classify 25ish of 35 were nurture problems. Another 5 were probably cognitive disfunction problems stemming from things like fetal alcohol syndrome and slight birth defects and thus qualifying them as nature and nurture problems. The last 5, well, I would qualify them as "wired wrong" and thus they would be nature problems. They had no apparent family problems or mental challenges, but would "win" themselves a diagnosis of "borderline personality disorder". In other words, "we don’t know why your child behaves like this" and no matter what, b/c they now have a diagnosis, it’s next to impossible to eject them from society b/c they have a “label”.

In closing, in modern times, most of the problems in our world are nurture problems. When a child comes into the world, regardless of its physical and emotional attributes, it will react accordingly to the energy of its welcoming committee. Unwanted children, in my experience, behave as if they are unwanted by the world and then develop accordingly. When it comes to human nature, the famous quote should be rewritten to say:
To every action, there is a reaction.

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rudiment's by Anonymous

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