Victorian times were not kind to most children, the majority of whom were hungry, shabbily dressed and often made to work most of their days. Even wealthy children at that time were neglected on an emotional level, as their parents tended to leave them with governesses or other hired help.
According to the BBC, many Victorian children died as babies or toddlers owing to diseases, such as diptheria or smallpox. Poor children usually lacked shoes and were dressed in thin, ragged clothing, even in winter. They often did not receive an education, spending their days working instead. Wealthier children wore better clothes, enjoyed a sufficient diet and were allowed to study school subjects rather than work. However, most were bored and lacking in any display of affection from their parents.
A large number of children in the Victorian era were arrested and sentenced as adults for crimes ranging from petty theft to lying. There are records of children as young as 12 being hanged for their crimes during that time period. In the mid-1800s the government established reformatory schools for criminal offenders younger than 16. These institutions were not much of an improvement on jail, with instructors administering frequent beatings.