||[Mar. 30th, 2004|05:04 pm]
In Child Psychology, we learned about this girl called Genie, her real name is unknown for privacy reasons.Its such an intriguing and horrifying thing that I wanted to post it here. |
A CASE STUDY GONE WRONG
1970's Case Study
A tragic story of an abused child who was rescued only to be used for a science experiment of First language Acquisition and further exploration of the Critical Period Hypothesis.
Genie's story is a complicated and sad one. It was the first time scientists could test the Critical Period Hypothesis and how it affects first language acquisition.
“It’s a terribly important case,” says Harlan Lane, a psycholinguist at Northeastern University who wrote The Wild Boy of Aveyron. “Since our morality doesn’t allow us to conduct deprivation experiments with human beings, these unfortunate people are all we have to go on.”
On November 25, 1970 in Arcadia, Los Angeles 13 year old Genie was discovered. Genie did not have any sense of language and grew up in almost complete isolation. Her only words when found were "stop it." Her father claimed that Genie was mentally retarded, so that is why she spent her days tied to a potty seat and nights in a sleeping bag that was designed so she could not move (similar to a straight jacket).
It was the first time scientists could test the Critical Period Hypothesis and how it affects first language acquisition. Feral Children (children that have not grown up with any human contact) throughout history have been the only way scientists have been able to test language capacities after a child has past the critical period of language development. Yet, do we consider the best interest of the child or the further development of science?
Lenneberg's (1967) Critical Period Hypothesis
Lenneberg theorized that the acquisition of language is an innate process determined by biological factors which limit the critical period for acquisition of a language from roughly two years of age to puberty.
Lenneberg believed that after lateralization (a process by which the two sides of the brain develop specialized functions), the brain loses plasticity.
Lenneberg claimed that lateralization of the language function is normally completed at puberty, making post adolescent language acquisition difficult.
Genie was a scientist's dream of proving or disproving the Critical Period Hypothesis and she suffered for the furthering of science.
November 1970, Genie is found and taken to a children's hospital. Her father was charged with child abuse and committed suicide one week before his trial.
At the children's hospital Genie had several doctors. Susan Curtis for language, Dr. Kent for psychology, Dr. J. Shirley for psychiatry, Jean Butler for special education. These doctors wanted to see through Genie if language was innate (Chomsky) or if it had to be learned before the age of puberty (Lemmeberg).
Jean Butler was Genie's first foster care giver. She only stayed with Butler for a short time. David Riggler took Genie into his home and she stayed with his family for 4 years. At the age of 18, Genie returned to the care of her mother. After a few months her mother found her too difficult. Her mother sued the Children's Hospital for excessive research and not considering the best interest of the patient (the case was settled outside of court). Genie was then put into a foster home where she was severally abused. This abuse caused a lapse in her speech gains from the hospital and she never spoke again like she did the first four years after her being found. She lived in 6 different foster care homes after this. Currently she is in the care of an adult foster home in southern California.
Genie was rescued from a situation in which she was beaten every time she made noise or tried to speak. She was only given baby food and cereal to eat. When she was admitted to the hospital, she was 54 inches tall and weighed only 62 pounds. She could hardly stand, chew solid foods, and could not make sounds. But yet her case was treated as more of a science experiment, and as soon as the funding was up for Genie's care the doctors who had become her family left.
Genie did not acquire language as hoped, but only learned about 100 words over a 4 year period. She did pick up the difference between singular and plural nouns, negative and positive phrases, and some modifications. It is unclear if her inability to acquire language was due to the fact that she had missed her critical period or because of the severe trauma she had suffered.