What your tween is really worried about

TWEENS' biggest worries are focused on family matters and they are least concerned about how they look.

Surprise findings from The Growing Up In Australia Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, released today, reveal that in 10-13-year-olds terrorism, the use of drugs and alcohol, and school matters are less important than the goings-on in their own family unit.

Fear that a family member will become seriously ill, concerns about fighting, or worries a parent will lose their job are the main causes of anxiety. Two-thirds of 10 and 11-year-olds have family concerns.

Australian Institute of Family Studies director Anne Hollonds said it was important to understand what young people worry about in order to support and deal with their concerns effectively.

"Many parents may be surprised to hear that young people worry most about their families in their tweens and early teenage years, showing how important family relationships continue to be as children get older," she said.

Tim Walsh, 11, from Graceville, Alice Falconer, 12, from West End and Ronan Lorigan, 11, from St Lucia. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Tim Walsh, 11, from Graceville, Alice Falconer, 12, from West End and Ronan Lorigan, 11, from St Lucia. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Graceville parents Liz and Chris Walsh said "family is the centre of everything" for their son Tim, 11, who tends to take on a "family diplomat" role.

"If there's ever any feud, he's already in there making sure everyone sorts things out," Mrs Walsh said.

Sharon Lorigan of St Lucia said her son Ronan, 11, was not overly concerned about things going on at home, but "pays attention to everything to keep balance in his life".

Institute research fellow Suzanne Vassallo said global issues were another concern, with 40 per cent of the kids worried about terrorism and war; drugs and alcohol played on the minds of 44 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds and 37 per cent of 12 and 13-year-olds; while a third of 10-13-year-olds have climate worries.

She said school is also a source of anxiety, but the nature of the issue differed for the age groups, with younger students concerned about the transition to high school and older students worried about performing well at school.

Ms Vassallo said relatively few tweens were concerned about looks and whether they fitted in with their friends.

"While concerns about personal appearance and fitting in with friends ranked the lowest among the issues children were asked about, a sizeable proportion - 20-25 per cent - were still worried about these issues," she said.

"It is possible that concerns about these issues may increase as children move through adolescence and peer relationships become more important."