Child Abuse in Literature Essay

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Child Abuse in Literature

Child Maltreatment

Child maltreatment entails all types of neglect and abuse of a child below eighteen years by caregivers, parents or any other person (Crosson-Tower, 2006). Child abuse encompasses all forms of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or child exploitation that causes potential or actual harm to a child's well-being, dignity and development (Smith & Fong, 2004). According to Scannapieco & Connell-Carrick (2005), child maltreatment is a stern problem capable of causing harmful effects on a child victim. Scannapieco & Connell-Carrick (2005) confirmed that many children experience severe beatings, sexual abuse, neglect and even killed by a parent or other people taking guardianship of children. In the modern world, the media highlight numerous stories of children suffering severely in the hands of their caregivers and parents (Howe, 2005). Evidently, parents place their children in closets without giving them food; others drown in the bathtubs, beaten while others get tied to a pole. Although such atrocities are few in the contemporary world, many children continue to suffer silently in the hands of their caregivers (DePanfilis, 2006). There are systems used to protect children from all forms of maltreatment, help families develop healthier parenting besides punishing perpetrators of child maltreatment. In this regard, this paper will assess the story," A Child Called It" by Dave Pelzer. The paper will also identify the abuse highlighted in the book and the intervention strategies used to protect the child in question from further maltreatment.

A Child Called It

"A Child Called It" is a book that records the memorable account of a most severe child abuse case. The book highlights a jerking factual story of one child who lived in starvation, torture and cruelty from his alcoholic and emotionally unstable mother. His mother treated him as if he were not her son to the extent that he learnt to play dirty games such as stealing to survive. Dave faced maltreatment since he was fours years old until school officials secured him when he was twelve years old. Dave slept in the basement, in an army Cot, and wore raunchy and torn clothes. His mother allowed him to eat his family's leftovers and other spoiled scraps. The outside world never understood the predicament that Dave experienced for 8 years. He had no one to turn to, but he was hopeful that one day he would find a conducive environment to call home.

Dave starts the story by highlighting the physical beatings he receives from his mother. While washing dishes, he reflects on where and how to get something to eat, "I am 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" (Pelzer 1993, p.3). David's mother rewards him with his brother's leftovers," I finish the dishes, then my other chores, for my reward I receive breakfast-leftovers from one of my brother's cereal bowls" (Pelzer 1993, p.4). Dave recalls his happy times during his childhood when his mother used to take him to the park and take proper care of him. The mother was comforting particularly when he thought he would fall in the pond. During this period, Dave enjoyed some love and security from his mother.

However, as years went by, his life drastically changed, and he got severe punishment from his mother. The punishment changed to physical, psychological and emotionally abuse. The character of his mother constantly changed, and she often seemed unhappy and rough. She yelled at her children and specifically targeted David. David lived in their house basement where he got very little food notwithstanding the work he did for the family (Pelzer, 1993). This led him to searching for food in trashcans. His physical abuse augmented when his father went to work. It came to a point where his father offered him no support or protection from his mother's physical and emotional torture. He eventually realized that his family disliked him given that he received no Christmas gifts. He started to find the school a better place than home even though his friends mocked and isolated him (Pelzer, 1993). The teachers and police officer frees Dave from maltreatment. The story ends with his account of a loving relationship he has with his wife and son and pride and joy of being a caring and protective father to his son.


Dave's story details a harrowing existence. However, he overcomes the incredible odds and survives unthinkable torture. David cleans the dishes in scalding water; he gets thorough beating and rewarded with leftovers, "I dip my hands into the scalding rinse water" (Pelzer 1993, p.3). Upon examination by the school nurse, the school officials realized how far the abuse had gone and decided to take the matter to the police who freed him from his mother's torture. While his earliest childhood memories were happy when his mother was nurturing and protective, he spent most of childhood years in agony. "A Child Called It" depicts a struggle of a young and innocent boy to survive. David slept in the garage, and when other family members ate together, David sat in a corner with no food. The boy experienced starvation for days despite his hard work. Making the child go to school hungry triggered him to steal food from other students. Despite knowing the reasons why David stole food from other student's bags, his mother punished him severely by taking him to the toilet and feeding him with ammonia (Pelzer, 1993). Washing the dishes is not a child's work particularly for a boy. Nevertheless, David's mother would make him wash the dishes in a restrained time before going to school. Starvation turned the boy into a beggar, and when his mother got the news of his child's behavior, she beat him severely (Pelzer, 1993). His mother monitored his every movement. One time when he stole food from a shop his mother forced him to vomit all the food he had eaten and then eat the same trash.

A more horrifying moment is when the mother forced him to eat stool from his brother's dirty diaper, and when he refused, she rubbed the filth on David's face. The mother also tired to burn his hand by putting it on a burning stove. When a child faces rejection from her family, he/she tries to ignore the parents, as they have nothing better they can offer. This is what David did to his mother, but he got the shock of his life. His mother practically pulled a knife and stabbed him in the stomach. Even after such tragedy, David and his weak body to cleaned the dishes. His father seemed less bothered by what his wife did to their son. David hated his parents, but the intervention taken by the school officials and the police changed his life. The events unfolding in the story highlights some form of child physical, emotional and psychological abuse and neglect.

With respect to the story and chapter 4 of the class textbook, David suffered from parental neglect. According to Crosson-Tower (2009), neglect of children is a resultant of parental failure to meet the most salient needs of their children. The basic needs include safety, affection, food, clothing and shelter (Beckett, 2007). While economic factors plays a crucial role in child neglect, David neglect is out of personality structure of the parents. Children such as David who face parental neglect exhibit retarded growth, flat effect, malnutrition, inability to conceptualize and unattended medical problems. David's mother was alcoholic, and this behavior contributed to the general neglect of his child's needs, and the physical abuse he experienced (Pelzer, 1993). Crosson-Tower (2009) asserts that alcohol influence triggers any form of child maltreatment. In fact, parents under drug or alcohol influence are capable of sexually, emotionally or physically abusing their children. Substance influence hinders parents from positive parenting consequently implying neglect (Wulczyn, 2004). As regard, David father's failure to pay attention to his child needs amounted to emotional neglect. The father failed to make an emotional connection with his child. He, therefore, failed to develop internalized guiding principles to direct him, "therefore, neglected children do not developed an internalized set of standards to guide them," (Crosson-Tower 2009, p.80). David could not delay his gratification thereby triggering impulsive behaviors such as stealing from shops and stealing other people's food. As indicated by Crosson-Tower (2009, p.219), neglectful parents are unable to hold their impulses. They lack knowledge in spheres of attending to the requirements of their children.

Evidently, David experienced psychological and emotional maltreatment (Stevenson, 2007). While psychological maltreatment brings about sexual and physical abuse and neglect, it can also exist exclusively. Psychological maltreatment entails isolating, ignoring and rejecting a child. According to chapter 9 of Crosson-Tower (2009, p.80), psychological maltreatment has its roots on personal and societal deficiencies. With respect to David's story, his psychological maltreatment gained support from his mother's personal deficiencies. Parents who emotionally mistreat their children are emotionally needy,…[continue]

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