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Children Found Raised By Dogs
The subject of feral children has fascinated me for many years. Now they find out that two children were found in the Ukraine, living among wild dogs; has further provided researchers with questions regarding language development and human psychology.
Victor: First documented wild child
Victor was an 11-year-old boy found in January 1800 near Saint Sernin sur Rance, in southern France. Victor survived 11 years by living in the forest; he crawled on four slopes and used to eat in people’s gardens.
He thought, that since he had no human contact for the first 11 years of his life that he probably gained the social skills that he had in animals. He was not wearing any clothes and his body had many old marks and new scars from living in the forest.
When found, Victor could not speak human language. Researchers at the time tried to re-socialize Victor to the most appropriate social norms of the time and tried to teach him language. They make barely minimal progress.
Victor lived to the age of 40, which was probably the average life at that time. He was never able to socialize to live the kind of life that most of us would think of as normal and healthy. Since Victor’s case, psychologists and sociologists have been very interested in the development of language in cases of social neglect.
Feral children in modern society
In 1991, an 8-year-old girl was found in Novaya Blagoveschenka, Ukraine. Her name was Oxanna Malaya. At that time they discovered him living in the backyard of his family’s house in a dog kennel.
He befriended the dogs in the yard and basically took over their behavior and actions. He walked on all fours, growling and barking. He would defend the territory in an aggressive display similar to that of an angry dog. He had minimal human language ability, but would communicate like his canine companions through animal-like actions.
Also, in Mirny, Ukraine in 1999, a young boy named Edik was discovered. Edik was 4 years old when he was discovered. Edik lived alone in a dilapidated apartment in a poverty-stricken area of Ukraine.
He had wild dogs co-habiting in the apartment with him, some say at any given time he had at least three dogs with him.
The researchers believe that it was the symbiotic relationship between the human and the animal that strengthened the bond, and created the “pack” mentality between the boy and the dogs. The dogs found that the boy would provide some source of food, no matter how scarce; which means that the dogs did not have to hunt. In exchange, the dogs gave the boy affection and companionship.
What did Oxanna and Edik achieve today?
Today, Oxanna and Edik are not classified as true feral children due to their prior human socialization and the fact that they had some basic language skills early on.
But to this day, language skills are still lagging behind their chronological development to this day. The researchers believe that Oxanna’s language skills will always be behind others her age because she discovered past the age when the brain can regain these skills to full functional capacity.
Education on the other hand has made good progress. His language skills are still behind other children his age. But the researchers believe that he will be able to regain enough language that he will function well in society. They believe that it is only based on the fact that he discovered enough genes that the brain can still learn the basic foundations necessary for language development.
Today, Oxanna and Edik live in the care home where they interact with other people and the staff. Both Oxanna and Edik have dogs at home so they can always enjoy them as pets. They are no longer dependent on these animals for survival, so their relationship with animals has changed significantly.
Both Oxanna and Edik now walk on 2 legs, like the rest of us and wear clothes in a socially appropriate way. It took months and years for both of them to learn these basic social norms. An update from 2010 indicates that Oxana is now trying to locate her birth mother and father to learn more about herself.
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