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“A Child Called “It” by Pelzer


An autobiographical work “A Child Called “It” by Pelzer appeared in 1995. This life story is devoted to child abuse faced by the author during his childhood. Pelzer vividly depicts hardship and emotional burden experienced by the child. This story is very impressive, because it reflects personal past of the author, physiological stress and cruelty of his alcoholic mother and negligent father. Different parents have different ideas as to the proper way to bring up children, or as to what counts as adequate care for them, but this story unveils hash realities of childhood and family violence faced by some children.

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Description of the story

The main characters of the story are the narrator, his mother and father. Through these characters, Pelzer describes experience of a child faced with emotional and physical abuse. Also, the author mentions such people as Mr. Hansen, the principle, Mr. Zeigler, homeroom teacher and Miss Moss, the math teacher. His mother, Catherine Roerva, was a cruel and emotionally disturbed woman suffered from alcoholism. This resulted in distraction and harassment of her children, primarily Dave. The most impressive is the fact that the mother singled out her child from among her other children seeing him as the object of abuse. The father Pelzer was a fireman often away from the family. Physical abuse of the child was closely connected with emotional abuse and involved physical punishment and family violence. The book vividly portrays serious harm to the child’s physical well-being and portrays physical abuse. Pelzer describes that his mother often found any excuse to punish him while favoring the other children. “SMACK!. Mother bits me in the face and I topped to the floor. I know better than to stand there and take the bit, I learned the bard way that she takes as an act of defiance, which means more bits, or worst of all, no food ” (Pelzer, 1995, p. 3).

Pelzer vividly portrays that alcoholism ruins family happiness and warm relations. Alcoholism is closely connected with physical effects such intoxication, chronicle use and dependence, and physiological problems. Pelzer describes that there was no doubt that physical sufferings are more evident and their effects more visible for other people then emotional problems experienced by the author. Certainly this is so in comparison with emotional injuries. Pelzer describes his mother “She still has a hangover from last night’s stupor. Her once beautiful, shiny hair is now frazzled clumps. … In all, this has become Mother’s typical look” (Pelzer, 1995, p. 3). But there was no doubt that the child suffered emotional damage which was long-lasting and serious.

Reading of the book is important in this course, because it reflects social problems experienced by many children and families today. Pelzer depicts that physical abuse was connected with parental physical punishment. He underlines that it is a mistake to think that ‘physical harm’ is uncontroversial in a way that ’emotional harm’ is not. In general, ‘physical harm’ must be understood in terms of detriment to well-being, and well-being in turn needs to be defined by reference to the normal functioning of a person. Pelzer does not tell that his father bits him. On the other hand, parental neglect is also a serious offence. His father did nothing to protect Dave from psychical and emotional abuse. The author underlines that as a child he was harmed not simply when he was positively injured, nor even when, in addition, he was neglected. In the book, Pelzer describes terrible scenes of abuse when he was injured. His mother threatened Dave “If you don’t finish on time, I’m going to kill you” (Pelzer, 1995, p. 22). One day his mother staggering drunk stabbed Dave in the chest. After this accident she did not even took pain to care of her son. Dave describes: “The pain from the pinching was more than I could stand. With my teeth clamped tightly on the rag, my screaming was muffled. I felt as though I was hanging from a cliff” (Pelzer, 1995, p. 23). Pelzer portrays that he had no voice and even a chance to protect himself.


This book is important for every social worker because it is based on contrast between happy days of his family described at the beginning of the story versus tortures faced by David Pelzer. The author depicts the emotional sufferings and emotional burden of constant fear to be punished. The consequence of emotional abuse is that it causes the greatest distress resulted in betrayal of trust and responsibility involved. Painful initiation ceremonies, practices of ‘mutilation’ or deliberately induced physiological ‘deformations’ are seriously harmful. The important element of the book is social help and school’s support which helped Dave to escape family violence. A school nurse reported to the school’s principle and police about a stab wound and other injuries. Dave’s medical file contained such injuries as cuts, bruises and malnutrition. Pelzer shows that every child is entitled to the equal protection and promotion of their interests. That point serves to separate bad parenting from parental ‘abuse’. A case of child abuse is normally taken to be one where gross harm results and where the negligence is palpable. This can be helpful and interested to people studying psychology and sociology, family relations and social works program. This story is a vivid example of family violence and pressure caused by alcoholism. Very often, children are the unwilling victims of psychical and emotional abuse even when they know what is happening to them.

Works Cited

Pelzer, D.J. A Child Called It. HCI; Reissue edition, 1998.

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