A generation of "tweenagers" are at risk of being led astray as they move from primary to secondary school, Ministers warned yesterday.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said children between eight and 13 have been relatively neglected as they fall between early childhood and the teenage years, which are higher profile.
But at this age many youngsters struggle academically as they move to secondary school and can be tempted by peer pressure to experiment with risky behaviour for the first time.
Mr Balls said: "There is this group in the middle, which marketing experts call 'tweenagers', young people who are not yet teenagers but are older than early years.
"In the middle of those 'tweenage' years, eight to 13, you have this very substantial and important transition from primary to secondary school. It's also the time when temptations are more on offer, when young people are most likely, if they do, to be pressured by peers to try their first cigarette. For those young people who get into difficulty, these are the years when difficulty often begins."
Mr Balls also claimed nearly all children say they are happy, healthy and cared for by their families in spite of reports to the contrary.
He said a Government review published yesterday showed that for most children "things are good". His assessment was made as the review of more than 100 research studies into the lives of children and young people in England was launched. The findings will form the basis of the 10-year Children's Plan by the Government.