Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) has the ability to improve the diagnostic utility of densitometry in children and adolescents, because bone size and volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) can be measured independently. Nevertheless, detailed reference data are lacking. We therefore performed pQCT (XCT-2000 scanner, Stratec, Inc., Pforzheim, Germany) at the distal radius in 371 healthy children, adolescents, and young adults (185 males and 186 females, ages 6-23 years) and in 107 of their parents (19 men and 88 women, ages 29-40 years). Total vBMD, trabecular, and "cortical + subcortical" vBMD as well as cross-sectional area (CSA) were determined at the "4% site" of the distal radius. This location was defined as the site whose distance to the most distal portion of the growth plate or to the radial articular surface corresponded to 4% of the forearm length. In both genders, total vBMD remained stable between 6 and 15 years of age and then increased by 30% in girls and by 46% in boys. Regarding pubertal development, total vBMD remained almost constant throughout pubertal stages 1-4 and thereafter increased in both genders. Trabecular vBMD did not change with age in girls, whereas in boys an increase with age of about 10% was noted after 15 years of age. Males had higher trabecular vBMD than females. This gender difference increased from 6% in prepubertal children to 23% in adults. The variation with age and pubertal stage in "cortical + subcortical" vBMD-cort was similar to that of total vBMD. CSA roughly doubled between 6 and 15 years of age in both genders. In conclusion, the availability of this reference material will provide a basis for the use of pQCT in the assessment of pediatric bone diseases.