His book A Child called "It" describes from his viewpoint about the severe abuse he suffered as a child. He writes how his mother was physically and emotionally abusive towards him from ages 4 to 12. In his book he describes how his mom starved him, forced him to drink ammonia, stabbed him in the stomach, burned his arm on a gas stove, and forced him to eat his own vomit. He mentioned that his father was not active in resolving or stopping the conflicts between Pelzer and his alcoholic mother. In 1973 at age 12 he was sent to a foster family. In the book he uses pseudonyms to reference his relatives.
One of Dave's brothers, Richard B. Pelzer, published his own autobiography detailing his experiences as well called A Brother's Journey. Paraphrased, Pelzer said in the afterword of his book that his objectives for his story was to show how a parent can turn to be abusive and how the human spirit can triumph and survive.