Through this book, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children, Viviana A. Zelizer explores the development of childhood and youth through the late 19th century into the early and mid 20th century. Zelizer begins her book by describing the transition from a child's insignificance throughout time to a sanctified view of children that began in Europe and America throughout the 19th century. This transpired mainly through the middle and upper-class families. Before this shift, the analysis of a child death was non-existent. Zelizer explains 18th century parents were detached from their young, therefore were able to maintain a sort of remoteness when losing one of their young. However by the turn of the century, a remarkable change had taken place and the death of a child had become the worst loss a parent could endure. Children had become sacred and looked after by whole communities. .
By 1910, accidents had become the leading cause of childhood death. Because children were held in such high regard, the public endorsed increased safety precautions to combat the loss of their children. A major precaution was to eliminate children playing in the streets where they were susceptible to automobiles and streetcars (the leading cause of accidental child death). Playgrounds were built and parents were asked to accommodate their children by allowing them to play inside by setting up designated play areas. Following child death and the extreme transition that transformed the public view of it, Zelizer delved into another relevant topic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, labor issues. .
By the late 19th century, child labor was the main source of additional income to the family. Children became the second largest wage earners of the family. Children's wages added more income to the family, than did their working mothers. However, with a growing compassion for children, a dispute rose over the value of the child as being economic or sentimental.