In its severest form, developmental dysplasia of the hip is one of the most common congenital malformations. The pathophysiology and natural history of the range of morphological and clinical disorders that constitute developmental dysplasia of the hip are poorly understood. Neonatal screening programmes, based on clinical screening examinations, have been established for more than 40 years but their effectiveness remains controversial. Whereas systematic sonographic imaging of newborn and young infants has afforded insights into normal and abnormal hip development in early life, we do not clearly understand the longer-term outcomes of developmental hip dysplasia, its contribution to premature degenerative hip disorders in adult life, and the benefits and harms of newborn screening. High quality studies of the adult outcomes of developmental hip dysplasia and the childhood origins of early degenerative hip disease are needed, as are randomised trials to assess the effectiveness and safety of neonatal screening and early treatment.