Without the social experiences provided by human contact within human groups, the individuals personality development is impaired to the extent that functioning within human society is not possible. The necessity of human contact is shown in studies of social isolates. Children with little or no social experience cannot communicate verbally or by means if gestures with others. Secluded from human contact many are unable to perform such basic functions as walking feeding, or cleaning themselves. However, when these children are placed in environments where they are provided with human contact and training they are able to achieve a more normal development and learn to behave in ways more appropriate for their age and status.
Two such classis cases if extreme isolation has been documented by Kingsley Davis (1940, 1947). In one case, a 6 yearold girl named Anna was discovered in a Pennsylvania farmhouse attic where she had been hidden by her family because she was illegitimate. Fed almost nothing but milk, Anna had received little physical care or emotional attention. When found by a social worker, she could not walk, talk, or take care of her own basic needs. She also showed no signs if intelligence, was withdrawn, uninterested, and totally indifferent to others. Having missed six years of socialization from her family, Anna never smiled or laughed.
After many months of care and training in a special school, Anna learned to wash herself, walk, talk, and play with other children, but was developmentally far behind other children. Whether Anna was mentally retarded, or was kept away from interacting with others, remains a mystery. This was a case of child abandonment that brought horror to this child. When she died at the age of 10, she was socially and mentally functioning at about a 2-year-olds level.
In a second case, a 6-year-old Ohio girl named Isabelle was discovered living with her deaf mother in a dark roo View More »