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feral children


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


When, in the mid-eighteenth century, Linnaeus was setting out the method of nomenclature that we use still today to identify animals by genera and species, he was puzzled by the variety of human beings. There were, it was reported, people with tails ( Homo caudatus) , the apes collected in his employer's garden ( Homo simia) , mankind who lived in the dark ( Homo troglodyte) , humankind who called, siren-like ( Homo marinus) – even human children reared by wild creatures. These he chose to characterize as members of the genus Homo , but the species ferus . He knew of ten such children from the literature then available. Today, we can count studies of over 400 reported feral children. These are not to be confused with children so raised and made prominent in fiction nor those real children merely isolated and confined by human captors, nor “wild men” brought from a childhood elsewhere when brought into Western culture. In contemporary usage, “feral children” are human children raised with, and maintained by, nonhuman animals. The presumed importance of feral children is the possibility that they may provide clues as to what aspects of the human brain and behavior are inborn and which are acquired through association with human culture. Feral children are to be found in both fiction and non-fiction alike: often it is unclear which category is appropriate. “Feral” children are discovered ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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