Associations between childhood behaviour and personality and adult affective disorder were investigated in a 36-year follow-up of a national birth cohort. A number of early characteristics were significantly related to adult outcome including enuresis, nailbiting, speech problems, truancy and composite indices of behaviour and personality. Continuity was not explained by factors acting independently on child and adult measures. Prediction of adult disorder, although better for women, was modest in both sexes and sensitivity and specificity would not justify widespread intervention. However, childhood measures should prove valuable in investigating chains of influence on adult disorder, occurring throughout individuals' life histories.