Genie: A Psychological Case Study

Genie (born in 1957, California) was the victim of severe child abuse, neglect and social isolation. She was discovered by the authorities in 1970 (aged 13) – up until then, from the age of 20 months, she was strapped to a chair, or was left in a crib with her limbs bound together, in the basement of her home.

She has been an extreme psychological case study, as it is highly abnormal to study the effects of someone with such a lack of social contact throughout their entire childhood. She was never exposed to language and subsequently has no language skills, and has been studied by developmental psychologists and linguistics to try and give an insight into the effects of such deprivation.

Since being moved from the hospital where she was treated immediately after she was discovered, Genie has lived in a series of foster homes, care homes for disabled adults, among other institutions – some of which she incurred further emotional and physical abuse. As a result, her newly acquired language and behavioural skills rapidly declined.

It was found that Genie had developmental disablities which may account for some of her lack of language and behavioural skills, so it is unclear to what extent the social isolation had on her development.

Currently, Genie resides in an institution for cognitively underdeveloped adults in LA, California and appears to be doing well. She can communicate reasonably well in sign language, but says very few words.

To see more about Genie, follow this link.

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