This study reports clinical details and statistical analysis of linear and body mass growth retardation in a cohort of 260 abused children. Seventy-one children (26%) showed impairment of growth for weight or height; 21 out of 92 children who spent time in foster homes showed catch-up growth whereas only 5 out of 168 never separated from their parents demonstrated improvement in height or weight centiles. Out of 11 children placed in foster care who were more than 2 SD below the mean for height, 10 demonstrated significant catch-up whereas only 4 out of 28 children who remained in their natural homes did so. Catch-up growth among children who remained at home was generally less than that which occurred in foster homes. In 17 cases diagnosis of growth impairment preceded nonaccidental injury. Growth of growth-retarded children in natural homes was poor. Because of the relationship between poor growth and other parameters of development, children who show catch-up growth in foster homes should probably not be 'rehabilitated' with their natural parents.