The development of 50 children relative to the fetal heart rate patterns they demonstrated during labor and delivery was prospectively studied. Normal deceleration patterns were recorded for 12 of the children, while 16 were recorded as moderately severe and 22 as severe variable or late deceleration patterns. The parity and socioeconomic status of the mothers and the sexes of the infants were similar among the groups. A statistically significant developmental difference in favor of children with normal fetal heart rate patterns was seen in the first year of life. However, at 6 to 9 years of age the difference in neurologic and cognitive development was no longer evident. These data do not support the hypothesis that brief abnormal fetal heart rate patterns recorded during labor are indicative of irreversible central nervous system injury.