The Priceless Child Revisited

  • Viviana A. Zelizer


American novelist Frederic Tuten recalls scenes from his New York childhood during World War II:

She was a thin woman without much fantasy. In her dress, I mean. Black from head to toe, in the Sicilian manner. She was a Sicilian, in fact, and she was my grandmother. She spoke little, and to my humiliation — I wanted to be like the other American kids in the Bronx — in Sicilian. And then, too, we were at the tail end of the war with Italy. So that in the street and other public places I answered her in English to distance myself.

Not that my Sicilian was great. But at 8 or 9 I managed to tell her what she wanted to know about my world at school and to conduct her from butcher to grocer to order for her and to check the scales when she thought they were tipping high … I also, and more importantly, served as her translator for the American news on the radio, and for the American movies.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, S.J.G. (1991) ‘A Fairer Hand: Why Courts Must Recognize the Value of a Child’s Companionship’, 8 Thomas M. Cooley Law Review 273.Google Scholar
  2. Bachman, S.L. (2000) ‘A New Economics of Child Labour: Searching for Answers Behind the Headlines’, Journal of International Affairs, 53: 545–72.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, S., J. Aldridge and C. Dearden (1998) Young Carers and their Families, Oxford: Blackwell Science.Google Scholar
  4. Blagbrough, J. and E. Glynn (1999) ‘Child Domestic Workers: Characteristics of the Modern Slave and Approaches to Ending such Exploitation’, Childhood, 6: 51–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bock, J. and D. W. Sellen (eds) (2002) ‘special Issue: Childhood and the Evolution of the Human Life Course’, Human Nature, 13: 153–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boulding, E. (1980) ‘The Nurture of Adults by Children in Family Settings’, in Helena Lopata (ed.), Research in the Interweave of Social Roles: Women and Men, Vol. 1, Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI, pp. 167–89.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice, Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, R. (2001) ‘Children’s Contribution to Household Labour in Three Sociocultural Contexts: a Southern Indian Village, a Norwegian Town and a Canadian City’, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 42: 353–67.Google Scholar
  9. Fernández-Kelly, P. (2002) ‘Ethnic Transitions: Nicaraguans in the United States’, in B. Ostendorf (ed.), Transnational America. The Fading of Borders in the Western Hemisphere, Heidelberg: C. Winter, pp. 177–203.Google Scholar
  10. Galinsky, E. (1999) Ask the Children, New York: Morrow.Google Scholar
  11. Gill, B. and S. Schlossman (1996) ‘“A Sin against Childhood”: Progressive Education and the Crusade to Abolish Homework, 1897–1941’, American Journal of Education, 105: 27–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gill, B. and S. Schlossman (2000) ‘The Lost Cause of Homework Reform’, American Journal of Education, 109: 27–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goodwin-Gill, G.S. and I. Cohn (1994) Child Soldiers, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kenny, M.L. (2002) ‘Orators and Outcasts, Wanderers and Workers: Street Children in Brazil’, in D.T. Cook (ed.), Symbolic Childhood, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 37–63.Google Scholar
  15. Krueger, A.B. (2002) ‘Putting Development Dollars to Use, South of the Border’, New York Times, 2 May.Google Scholar
  16. Kruse, D. and D. Mahony (1998) ‘Illegal Child Labour in the United States: Prevalence and Characteristics’, Working Paper 6479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lavalette, M. (ed.) (1999) A Thing of the Past? Child Labour in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  18. Lee, R. and K.L. Kramer (2002) ‘Children’s Economic Roles in the Maya Family Life Cycle: Cain, Caldwell, and Chayanov Revisited’, Population and Development Review, 28: 475–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Levison, D. (2000) ‘Children as Economic Agents’, Feminist Economics, 6: 125–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lewis, M. (2001) ‘Jonathan Lebed’s Extracurricular Activities’, New York Times Magazine, 25 February: 26.Google Scholar
  21. Mayall, B. (2002) Towards a Sociology for Childhood, Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Menjívar, C. (2000) Fragmented Ties. Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America, Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Nieuwenhuys, O. (1996) ‘The Paradox of Child Labour and Anthropology’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 25: 237–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Olsen, R. (2000) ‘Families under the Microscope: Parallels between the Young Carers Debate of the 1990s and the Transformation of Childhood in the Late Nineteenth Century’, Children & Society, 14: 384–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Orellana, M.F. (2001) ‘The Work Kids Do: Mexican and Central American Immigrant Children’s Contributions to Households and Schools in California’, Harvard Educational Review, 71: 366–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Orellana, M.F, J. Reynolds, L. Dorner and M. Meza (2003b) ‘In Other Words: Translating or “Para-phrasing” as a Family Literacy Practice in Immigrant Households’, Reading Research Quarterly, 38: 12–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Orellana, M.F., L. Dorner and L. Pulido (2003a) ‘Accessing Assets: Immigrant Youth’s Work as Family Translators or “Para-phrasers”’, Social Problems, 50: 505–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Orellana, M.F., B. Thorne A. Chee and W.S.E. Lam (2001) ‘Transnational Childhoods: the Participation of Children in Processes of Family Migration’, Social Problems, 48: 572–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Portes, A. and L. Hao (2002) ‘The Price of Uniformity: Language, Family and Personality Adjustment in the Immigrant Second Generation’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25: 889–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quiroga, C. (2002) ‘Infancia Cartonera’, Gente, 22 October: 1944.Google Scholar
  31. Qvortrup, J. (1995) ‘From Useful to Useful: the Historical Continuity of Children’s Constructive Participation’, Sociological Studies of Children, 7: 49–76.Google Scholar
  32. Robson, E. and N. Ansell (2000) ‘Young Carers in Southern Africa: Exploring Stories from Zimbabwean Secondary School Students’, in S.L. Holloway and G. Valentine (eds), Children’s Geographies, London: Routledge, pp. 174–93.Google Scholar
  33. Sereny, G. (1984) The Invisible Children: Child Prostitution in America, West Germany and Great Britain, London: Andre Deutsch.Google Scholar
  34. Smelser, N.J. and R. Swedberg (1994) ‘The Sociological Perspective on the Economy’, in N. Smelser and R. Swedberg (eds), The Handbook of Economic Sociology, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 3–26.Google Scholar
  35. Solberg, A. (1994) Negotiating Childhood, Stockholm: Nordplan.Google Scholar
  36. Song, M. (1999) Helping Out: Children’s Labour in Ethnic Businesses, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Strom, S. (2003) ‘A Lesson Plan about Generosity’, New York Times, 21 March.Google Scholar
  38. Sun-Hee Park, L. (2002) ‘Asian Immigrant Entrepreneurial Children’, in L.T. Vo and R. Bonus (eds), Contemporary Asian American Communities: Intersections and Divergences, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, pp. 161–74.Google Scholar
  39. Swedberg, R. (2003) Principles of Economic Sociology, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Swedberg, R. and M. Granovetter (eds) (2001) The Sociology of Economic Life, 2nd edition, Boulder, CO: Westview, 2001.Google Scholar
  41. Thorne, B. (2001) ‘Pick-up Time at Oakdale Elementary School: Work and Family from the Vantage Points of Children’, in R. Hertz and N.L. Marshall (eds), Working Families: the Transformation of the American Home, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 354–76.Google Scholar
  42. Tilly, C. and C. Tilly (1998) Work under Capitalism, Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  43. Tuten, F. (2002) ‘still Replying to Grandma’s Persistent, “And Then”’, New York Times, 21 October: E1–2.Google Scholar
  44. Valenzuela, A. Jr (1999) ‘Gender Roles and Settlement Activities among Children and their Immigrant Families’, American Behavioral Scientist, 42: 720–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Woodhead, M. (1999) ‘Combating Child Labour: Listen To What the Children Say’, Childhood, 6: 27–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wuthnow, R. (1995) Learning to Care, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Zelizer, V.A. (1985) Pricing the Priceless Child: the Changing Social Value of Children, New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  48. Zelizer, V.A. (2001) ‘Economic Sociology’, in N.J. Smelser and P.B. Baltes (eds), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 6, Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 4128–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zelizer, V.A. (2002a) ‘Intimate Transactions’, in M.F. Guillén, R. Collins, P. England and M. Meyer (eds), The New Economic Sociology: Developments in an Emerging Field, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 274–300.Google Scholar
  50. Zelizer, V.A. (2002b) ‘Kids and Commerce’, Childhood, 4 (November): 375–96.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Viviana A. Zelizer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Viviana A. Zelizer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations