We describe the nature and predictors of developmental trajectories of symptoms of DSM-IV nicotine dependence in adolescence following smoking initiation. Data are from a longitudinal cohort of 324 new smokers from grades 6-10 in the Chicago Public Schools, interviewed 5 times at 6-month intervals. Monthly data on DSM-IV symptoms of nicotine dependence were available for 36 months. Growth mixture modeling was applied to the monthly histories to identify trajectories of DSM-IV criteria of nicotine dependence. A four-class solution best fitted the data: no DSM criterion (47.7%); early onset/chronic course (19.8%); early onset/remission (17.3%); late onset (15.2%). Blunt use prior to cigarette use was associated with the three symptomatic trajectories. Conduct disorder and prior heavy smoking were associated with Class 2 (chronic). Conduct disorder differentiated Class 2 from Class 4 (late onset), while pleasant initial sensitivity to the first tobacco experience was associated with Classes 2 and 3 (remit) and differentiated Class 2 from Class 4. Novelty seeking characterized Class 3. Parental dependence differentiated chronicity (Class 2) from remission (Class 3) among those who developed symptoms early. Being Hispanic reduced membership in Classes 3 and 4, and being male for Class 3. The data highlight the importance of parental nicotine dependence as a risk factor for early and sustained nicotine dependence by the offspring, pleasant initial sensitivity and conduct disorder for early onset of dependence, and blunt use prior to smoking for all trajectories. The factors important for onset of dependence are not necessarily the same as those for sustained course.