A Child Called "It" book cover

A Child Called "It"

by Dave Pelzer
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Given what you have learned about child development, what strengths can be seen in how the adults supported the main character’s development in A Child Called "It"?

In A Child Called "It," the adults and the surrounding culture failed to support the author's development for a long time, missing or ignoring clear signs of abuse. However, when they did understand what was happening to him, the principal, his teachers, and the nurse acted bravely and supportingly, risking their jobs by initiating a police investigation.

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A Child Called "It" is primarily a story of horrendous abuse at the hands of a sadistic mother and how the author survived this mistreatment. It is also about the failure of a culture—and the adults within it—to address this abuse. Although the author's mother attempted to hide what she was doing to him, his father was partially aware of what was happening and did nothing to prevent it. At school, the author showed clear signs of abuse and neglect, turning up in the same clothes day after day and stealing food. Yet, for a long time, no one took action.

The psychological effects of abuse on child development are well-known. This was certainly less true at the beginning of the 1970s, but the type of abuse the author suffered was severe enough to cause long-term physical damage, as well as mental trauma. In the final chapter, which comments on the high incidence of child abuse in American society, the contributors address the need for vigilance in looking for signs of abuse. The adults around the author failed to be vigilant.

Despite this lack of attention, however, the teachers, the school principal, and, in particular, the nurse, were courageous in supporting the author once they realized that he was being abused. The author comments that he had no idea at the time that the teachers were risking their jobs by calling the police in to investigate. By this point in the story, all the responsible adults, from teachers to police, supported the author effectively, and the optimistic conclusion of his narrative shows that they were not too late.

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