Child psychiatric disorder has been found to be linked to enhanced primary care attendance. We studied the somatic and psychological associations of psychiatric disorder amongst frequent (four or more consultations a year) primary care attending school children. We compared 32 children aged 7-12 years with a psychiatric disorder with 77 non-disordered (also frequently attending) children. Psychiatric disorder was not associated with type of presenting complaint at the surgery nor with chronic physical illness. However disordered children were more likely to be described by their mothers as handicapped by existing physical problems, in poor health, with low energy levels and likely to experience physical symptoms under stress. Problems in social relationships and educational difficulties were reported in more disordered children; more of them came from broken homes and had mothers who reported other psycho-social and health stresses and showed characteristic health beliefs. The findings indicate that knowledge about the child's general physical well-being and relationships and about maternal mental health may assist in the primary care identification and management of psychiatric disorders of frequently attending schoolchildren.