'Wolf children' are children abandoned at an early age and found leading an isolated existence in the wild—natural examples of complete social deprivation.
In the first part of this book, Lucien Malson summarizes all the known genuine cases of wolf children and relates his findings to current research in anthropology, psychology and the psychology of learning. His account powerfully reinforces environmentalist emphasis on the social conditions necessary for the development of even the most basic apparently biological characteristics, such as the ability to distinguish and make sounds, let alone the ability to express emotion and to communicate.
Malson's study is followed by Jean Itard's classic account—since made into a film by Francois Truffant—of his attempts to educate Victor, a wolf child found in the forests of Central France at the end of the eighteenth century. Itard's description of his patient and often ingenious attempts to socialize and to teach Victor make his reports, in the words of Maria Montessori, 'virtually the first attempt at experimental psychology'.