Of 55200 Maltese children born in the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo in the birth years 1981 to 1990 inclusive, 134 fitted the case definition of cerebral palsy (CP). Children were allocated to prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal groups according to strict criteria and to various CP syndromes using the Swedish classification. The study was undertaken between 1994 and 1996 and the period prevalence rate was calculated. The control group comprised 134 children who were matched for sex and born immediately before or after the index subjects in the same hospital. Data related to risk factors were extracted from medical records and collected by interview with parents/carers. Unadjusted odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals for a range of risk factors were calculated. For risk factors with a relatively high prevalence in the population, such as prematurity and low birthweight, ORs were calculated from case-control data. For low-prevalence risk factors, such as breech presentation and multiple pregnancy, ORs were calculated against the whole population data for the 10-year birth cohort. The prevalence rate of CP in the geographically defined, stable population of the Maltese islands was similar to that in the UK and higher than that for Sweden, but the rates for different types of CP were markedly different from most developed countries, with a higher rate of spastic tetraplegias. Risk factors were as expected and similar to those reported from other developed countries. The study shows a strong social gradient with a higher than expected proportion of CP in children of unskilled manual workers.