The aim of this study was to determine which demographic, maternal, obstetric and postnatal variables were associated with achievement of developmental milestones at the age of 12 months in term infants. Mothers and babies were enrolled in the Auckland Birthweight Collaborative Study shortly after birth. All infants were full term (gestation >or= 37 weeks). Approximately half of the sample were small for gestational age (SGA = birthweight <or= 10th percentile), and half were appropriate for gestational age (AGA = birthweight > 10th percentile). A maternal interview was conducted soon after birth. Phase 2 of the study occurred 12 months later when mothers were sent a postal questionnaire requesting information about the child's health and development during the first year of life using the Denver Prescreening Developmental Questionnaire. Seven hundred and forty-four (85.4%) European mothers returned the postal questionnaire. SGA children were not at increased risk of developmental delay at 12 months of age. In a sample representative of New Zealand European children, after adjustment for the effects of potential confounders, maternal smoking during pregnancy (OR = 2.1 [95% CI 1.1, 4.0]), maternal smoking during the first year of life (OR = 1.9 [95% CI 1.0, 3.8]) and low levels of satisfaction with parenting (OR = 2.4 [95% CI 1.1, 5.2]) were associated with significantly increased risk of developmental delay. In the subgroup of SGA children, maternal smoking during pregnancy (OR = 2.9 [95% CI 1.4, 6.2]), high levels of stress associated with parenting (OR = 2.2 [95% CI 1.2, 4.0]), and low levels of satisfaction with parenting (OR = 4.3 [95% CI 1.3, 13.5]) were significantly associated with developmental delay after adjustment for the effects of potential confounders. In conclusion, maternal and postnatal factors were better predictors of developmental delay than demographic variables.