The spectrum of diabetes in the young has widened; it now includes monogenic diseases, for example the various forms of permanent and transient neonatal diabetes and MODY as well as the emerging obesity-associated Type 2 diabetes in late childhood, but the main form is still Type 1 diabetes. Age-related major medical, physiological, social and emotional problems make the clinical management of diabetes in children and adolescents a difficult task for the physician and the family. Overall glycaemic control remains moderate or poor despite a treatment schedule, which interferes with several elements of "normal" childhood. There is an up to tenfold geographical variation in the incidence of childhood Type 1 diabetes within Europe with relatively stable incidence rates in some countries (mainly northern), but dynamic increases in incidence in other countries (mainly central European).A number of nongenetic (environmental) factors have been associated with the risk of Type 1 diabetes. Among these, perinatal factors, early nutrition, growth and vaccinations, atopic diseases and vitamin D are discussed in detail. The important interplay between genes, organism and environment is illustrated with new genetic data supporting the importance of environmental pressures in the evolution of this major disease.Although Type 1 diabetes usually accounts for only a minority of the total impact of diabetes in a population, it is the predominant form of the disease in younger age-groups in most developed countries. It is estimated that on an annual basis almost 100 000 children younger than 15 years of age develop Type 1 diabetes worldwide. The autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cells in Type 1 diabetes leads to absolute insulin dependence and a high rate of complications typically occurring at a relatively young age. Therefore, Type 1 diabetes places a particularly heavy burden on the individual, the family and health services.