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Publication #FAR0804

What Middle Schoolers Want to Talk About1

Suzanna Smith2

Figure 1. 
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Can your middle-schooler talk to you? Most 10- to 14-year-olds want a warm, close relationship with their parents. However, only about a quarter of adolescents nationwide find their parents "approachable and available to talk" (Richardson, 2004, p. 87).

What do young teens want to talk about? A study appearing in the journal Family Relations asked a sample of middle school students, "If you could ask your mom or dad any question and know you would get an honest answer, what question would you ask?"

The largest percentage of youth (44%) turned in questions about family, especially questions about the parent-child relationship. They asked questions about rules and responsibilities, such as "'Are some of your rules really necessary?'" They also wondered about parental love and asked, "Do you think I am really important?'" Some questions had to do with feeling connected, such as, "Why don't you have any time for me?" Trust and conflict also came up around issues of privacy and respect. Only 1 in 4 middle schoolers turned in questions about dating, drugs, puberty, and school, the topics that parents tend to talk about (Richardson, R. A., 2004).

To keep the family relationship strong, parents will need to be open to listening to what their young adolescents want to talk about, and not impose their own agenda. Youth may be less interested in talking about sensitive subjects as parents would expect, and more likely to want to discuss understanding each other, getting along, expressing love, and understanding themselves.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Richardson, R. A. (2004). Early adolescent talking points: Questions that middle school students want to ask their parents. Family Relations, 53, 87-94.



This document is FAR0804 , one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Broadcast as program 258 in January 2007. Reviewed March 2012. n the interest of time or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified.Visit the EDIS website at


Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.