The first chapter of A Child Called It begins with "The Rescue," which is young David's rescue from the abuse of his mother. The following chapters are flashbacks from that moment of rescue, providing readers with the details of the abuse which has led to the moment where he is in need of rescue.
The book opens this way:
March 5, 1973, Daly City, California—I’m late. I’ve got to finish the dishes on time, otherwise no breakfast; and since I didn’t have dinner last night, I have to make sure I get something to eat.
Readers therefore have a point of reference for the timing of this rescue. In 1973, David Pelzer was twelve years old, according to biographical information. Despite his age, he weighed only 68 pounds, according to reports.
In the second chapter, David notes that he wasn't always abused, and that he considered his family the "Brady Bunch" of the 1960s at one point. He and his oldest brothers enjoyed the "perfect parents" who showered them all with love.
The abuse began when David was still quite young, sometime around four or five years old. Because of his young age, the exact timing is a bit unclear. He says things like, "As a small child, I probably had a voice that carried farther than others" (chapter 3). He also recalls that "as a small child, I realized Mom was as different as night and day when Father was home from work" (chapter 3). David was quite young in these recollections, but his age at that point is not provided in this text.
The epilogue is presented from the point of view of a now-adult David, who has a son of his own.