The lot of the child at the end of the First World War was a striking improvement on that of the child of the 1860s. Among the middle and upper classes there was less distance, awe, or repression in relationships with parents, and with the decline in religious observance the morbid austerities of extreme religiosity were not inflicted on them. Girls had greater preparation for independence, and doubtless their health was improved by the relaxation of dress conventions.
Among the working classes the main social agents for the relief of childhood were changing technology, which modified the pattern of demand for child labour, the advent of public schooling (not just for its own sake but because school gave public visibility to children’s deprivations and sufferings), the fall in the birth rate, and latterly the decline in parental drunkenness. The slum child of 1918 was less ill-fed and better clothed, less maltreated and more endowed with time to enjoy the early years of irresponsibility than the Victorian urchins described by Mayhew and picked up off the streets by Dr Barnardo.