In 1954, six young boys who exhibited violent behavior were brought to live on the grounds of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. They were specifically selected because they were deemed the worst of the worst:
The boys were selected on the basis of the consistent ferocity of their behavior, as documented in the records of courts, schools, and social agencies. Though they were only eight to ten years old at the time they became charges of the government, their case histories were long and strikingly similar: classroom difficulties ranging from inability to learn to violent tantrums, truancy, stealing, fire-setting, assaults—often fiendish in their ingenuity—on other children, sexual misbehavior, and so on.
For the next five years, the boys were attended around the clock by a team of specialists.
It was all part of an experiment, which came to be known as the "Case of the Furious Children," designed to find out why these young boys were so violent and whether they could be turned into responsible citizens. Eventually, around $1.5 million (in 1950's dollars) was spent on this effort.
By the end of the experiment, one of the researchers, Dr. Nicholas Long, said that the boys now had a "better than 50-50 chance of living a productive life." So what became of them? Were they reformed, or did they head down the path of crime and prison that they originally seemed to be destined for?
I'd be interesting to know, but I haven't been able to find anything out. I'm guessing the info has never been released because of privacy issues.
More info: Harpers Magazine - Jan 1958
Chicago Daily Tribune - July 19, 1959
Category: Antisocial Activities | Experiments | Psychology | Children | 1950s