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Feral Children and Autistic Children

Bruno Bettelheim
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 64, No. 5 (Mar., 1959), pp. 455-467
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2773433
Page Count: 13
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Feral Children and Autistic Children
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Abstract

Belief in the truth of the occasional reports of children having beenreared by wolves and behaving like animals may in part be accounted for by a narcissistic unwillingness to acknowledge the human nature of the so-called feral children. However, Ogburn has successfully proved that in a recent instance there is no sound evidence of animal foster-parents. Moreover, the behavior of the children strongly resembled that of servere cases of infantile autism with seemingly animal-like traits and habits being treated at the Orthogenic School of the University of Chicago. These are for the most part children of intelligent, educated parents, reared in middle-class homes, and there is no question of intervention by non-humans. As far as the etiology of such behavior is established, it seems to lie in extreme emotional deprivation, which may be equated with the traumatic experiences of wolf children reported from India.

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