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Violence: “A Child Called “It”” by Dave Pelzer


Domestic abuse is one of the most significant issues nowadays. Destructive family members often create a harsh environment for their relatives who have to overcome serious difficulties. In many cases, the victims of domestic violence are kids that cannot protect themselves. In 1995, Dave Pelzer wrote a book A Child Called “It”, where he describes his extremely tough childhood. The author focuses on his abnormal relationship with the abusive mother, and he also talks about his father’s abandonment and his siblings’ indifference.

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Child Abuse

Child abuse is one of the persistent problems in today’s society. Christian and Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (2015) define child abuse as an adult’s “act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm to an infant” (para. 2). Also, child maltreatment is a part of this outrageous phenomenon. In the worst cases, it might even include excessive violence. Children cannot defend themselves, which makes them especially vulnerable to aggressive behavior. National Children’s Alliance (2019) states that, in the US, approximately 700, 000 children go through abuse every year. Social services work on this problem consistently, but the numbers remain high.

There are a few different types of abuse that might occur. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2019) provides a list that includes neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Neglect is when a parent does not satisfy the basic needs of a child; for example, he or she does not give their child food and shelter or does not provide medical care. Physical abuse occurs when an adult injures a child, while emotional abuse refers to a parent behaving the way that causes psychological trauma. Last but not least, sexual abuse is engaging an under-aged child in any kind of sexual activity.

The main character of this book, Dave, has to go through severe conditions. He experiences three types of abuse: neglect, physical, and emotional abuse. To start, the mother neglects Dave by refusing to give him food, and he can barely find something to eat. The father secretly brings him food from time to time, but it does not count because it is never enough, and it cannot be called a proper treatment. In addition, the mother does not always allow the boy to wear proper clothes.

Also, the mother often gets physically abusive as she hits, punches, and even stabs Dave. She burns his hands, slaps, chokes, and pins him against the mirror or the wall. In addition, Dave’s mother practices emotional abuse when she yells at the boy, isolates him from the other members of the family, criticizes, threatens, and shames him. Moreover, she forces him to lie to other people and tell them that the atmosphere at home is good, even though he has bruises and wounds that do not look like “accidents.”

Mental Instability

Dave’s mother is very unstable mentally because she definitely has problems with her behavior and emotions. She drinks often, and, possibly, sustainable amounts of alcohol cause certain changes that lead to brain deterioration. Dave becomes a scapegoat in this family because he gets blamed for every possible thing. Aiken, Wagner, and Hinnant (2019) argue that parents that scapegoat an infant always scold him or her saying that he or she does the wrong things. A child does not get a chance to defend himself or herself and, eventually, starts to believe that he or she indeed is a very bad person. It is, of course, might tremendously affect an adolescent’s psyche.

It is difficult to give one reason why Dave’s Mother focused on the mistreatment of him specifically. Schwartz and Sweezy (2019) suggest that child scapegoating occurs when parents cannot solve their own issues, so they find a defenseless person in the family to recoup. When the mother begins acting aggressively, Dave is the youngest kid out of three, so, apparently, that is the main reason she started targeting him and not his two older brothers.

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Possibly, their personalities were stronger already due to their age, and, therefore, she would not be as successful in torturing them. However, it is essential to note that the brothers might still develop some problems with their mental development because they are constantly in a hostile environment. Thus, there is a significant influence on their mentality as well. Dave’s mother possibly has a mental illness, and it explains her violent behavior and uncontrollable emotions, but it does not excuse her actions anyway. She most likely has to go through medical treatment, instead of harming people around her. What she did to Dave has had a colossal impact on the boy’s entire life, and no child deserves to be abused.


Dave’s Father’s role in this story is difficult to analyze and evaluate. On the one hand, he tries to mitigate the situation by feeding the boy or spending some time with him. The author highlights that his Father suffers from the mother’s mental instability as well. On the other hand, he is a parent, too, and Dave’s well-being is his total responsibility. However, he decides to close his eyes to all the violence, and he does not protect the main character. Supposedly, the father acts this way because he has problems with the spouse himself, and he cannot solve them in the first place. He should have tried to help, but, maybe, he just could not. He might have certain mental issues too, and Pelzer (1995) mentions that the father had problems with alcohol. Inaction is just as bad as the abuse in this case.

As time passes, the father leaves the family because he does not feel responsible, and he mostly cares about his life. It is hard to tell would that be better if he stayed or if David lived with him because his abandonment causes tremendous harm. In general, the environment in this family seems to be very destructive, and there has to be more anamnesis collected to come to any conclusions.

Survival and Resilience

An individual demonstrates resilience when he or she lives in severe conditions, but learns how to cope with them. Though, it does not mean that a person is not traumatized or does not suffer. After many years of abuse, Dave still makes attempts to survive and to remain conscious. He remembers that there were times when everything was fine and when he had loving parents. He knows that normal adequate relationships exist, and, thus, he continues to fight. Besides, very rarely, he gets some warmth from strangers, and he realizes that if he manages to stay alive, he might have a brighter future. It is significant that, in the end, the main character says the Lord’s Prayer. It most likely means that there is still hope in this absolutely desperate situation.


To conclude, A Child Called “It” is a book that everyone should read in a lifetime. Dave’s story is extremely touching, and it makes a reader think more about what happens around. It is crucial to be more caring and attentive to each other. Someone might be tortured or oppressed behind the neighbor’s door or across the street. It is crucial to have compassion and make sure there is enough done to protect defenseless people.


Aiken, C. S., Wagner, B. M., & Benjamin Hinnant, J. (2019). Observed interactions in families of adolescent suicide attempters. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 49(1), 104-119.

American Psychological Association (2019). Understanding and preventing child abuse and neglect. Web.

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Christian, C. W., & Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2015). The evaluation of suspected child physical abuse. Pediatrics, 135(5), e1337-e1354.

National Children’s Alliance. (2019). National statistics on child abuse. Web.

Pelzer, D. (1995). A child called It: One child’s courage to survive. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.

Schwartz, R. C., & Sweezy, M. (2019). Internal family systems therapy (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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