Reflecting on “Gene the Wild Child” Documentary: Ethical Considerations and Balancing Risks and Benefits


The documentary “Gene the Wild Child” presents a thought-provoking portrayal of a young girl’s isolated upbringing and the complex ethical dilemmas surrounding her case. This discussion reflects on the film’s content, analyzing the ethical violations and risks involved in Gene’s story while considering the potential benefits that arose from her unique experience.

Ethical Violations and Risks

The documentary highlights several ethical violations and risks associated with Gene’s case. Firstly, Gene’s isolation deprived her of a nurturing environment, hindering her physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Her isolation was an infringement upon her basic rights to care, education, and social interaction. Additionally, the decision to study Gene without obtaining proper informed consent from her guardians raises concerns about research ethics. The researchers’ actions infringed upon Gene’s autonomy and exposed her to potentially harmful situations (Curtiss, 2019).

Benefits and Risks

The benefits arising from Gene’s case are multifaceted. The research contributed to our understanding of the critical period for language development and the capacity of humans to adapt and learn in extreme conditions. The insights gained from Gene’s story have implications for our understanding of human nature, language acquisition, and the influence of early experiences on cognitive development (Rymer, 2021).

However, these benefits must be weighed against the considerable risks and ethical violations involved. Gene’s physical and emotional well-being were compromised due to her isolation, affecting her long-term health and social integration. The potential gains in knowledge need to be balanced against the harm caused to her development and the ethical violations perpetrated against her (Gleitman, 2018).


The “Gene the Wild Child” documentary brings to light the complexities of ethical considerations and the delicate balance between potential benefits and inherent risks. The case of Gene underscores the importance of ethical conduct in research involving vulnerable populations. As scholars, it is imperative to prioritize the well-being and rights of individuals, especially when pursuing knowledge that might yield significant insights.


Curtiss, S. (2019). Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day “Wild Child”. Academic Press.
Rymer, R. (2021). Genie: An abused child’s flight from silence. HarperCollins.
Gleitman, L. R. (2018). The current status of the “critical period” for language: Feral children as evidence. In M. L. Rice (Ed.), Toward a genetics of language (pp. 63-101). Psychology Press.

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