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Secrets of the Wild Child

Updated on June 16, 2014

The story of Genie from the documentary, Secrets of the Wild Child, is simultaneously interesting and disturbing. Genie became a wild child because she was isolated by her father from a young age because of his belief that she was mentally retarded; according to the a wild child “is a human child who, from a very young age, has lived in isolation from human contact.” Genie’s lack of socialization led to her become a wild child who could not walk correctly, only made animal like noises, and did not understand words or grammar. I feel that when the children’s hospital got Genie’s case they made her both a research and patient.

When she was discovered by social services Genie was lacking any kind of socialization skills such as: the ability to speak, to understand social norms, and the ability to understand roles and statuses. Socialization is defined by the textbook as, “the process by which individuals come to understand the expectations and norms of their groups as well as the various roles they transition into over the life course and how to behave in society or in particular social settings” (Manza, 2013, p. 100). Genie’s isolated upbringing never gave her a chance to learn about normal norms and social expectations. The only expectations she ever understood prior to her rescue was that she was not to make noise or she would be punished. She never had any contact with children her age nor other people so she never learnt how to transition into any roles or statuses like a normal child would.

Based on the documentary, Secrets of the Wild Child, I would say that Genie was both a patient and a research subject at the same time based on the definition of the words: patients and research subject. A patient is a person “who receives medical attention, care, or treatment” (The American Heritage Dictionary, 2003). Genie would be classified as a patient because while she was in the children’s hospital she was receiving both physical medical attention and psychological treatment. A research subject is “a living individual about whom a research investigator (whether a professional or a student) obtains data through intervention or interaction with the individual” (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). By this definition Genie was also a research subject because multiple professors and students obtained data about Genie by interaction with her. I also believe she was also a research subject because of the fact that the children’s hospital received a grant for leaning about Genie; hospitals do not get grants just to treat a patient. I believe Genie would be classified as a patient and a research subject based on the definition of the words.


Manza, J. (2013). The sociology project: Introducing the sociological imagination. (1st Ed.).

Boston: Pearson/Prentice

Patient. (n.d.) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

(2003). Retrieved from

United States Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.) (2013).

Retrieved from


Wild child. (n.d.) (2013). Retrieved from


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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      What a very sad story, ignorance is definitely not bliss, and then the poor child goes on to become a study.