The persistence of obesity and overweight over eight years was assessed in a biracial (Black-White) cohort of 1,490 two-to 14-year-olds. Initial levels of triceps skinfold thickness (TRSF) and Rohrer index (weight/height3) were moderately predictive of subsequent levels: r = 0.54 and 0.67, respectively. However, TRSF and Rohrer index tended to track most strongly in Black females (r = 0.64 and 0.72) and less well in both White females (r = 0.45 and 0.57) and preschool children (r = 0.45 and 0.54). Based on elevated levels of TRSF or Rohrer index, children were classified as obese or overweight, respectively. Of the 222 children who were initially above the 85th percentile for TRSF, 43 per cent remained obese after eight years. Persistence of overweight was slightly greater at follow-up, with 50 per cent of initially overweight children staying above the 85th percentile for Rohrer index. Severe, initial obesity/overweight (greater than 95th percentile) and consecutively elevated levels increased the probability of remaining obese/overweight. Results indicate that moderate, juvenile-onset obesity is malleable, but that the child who is extremely obese over consecutive examinations is likely to become an obese adult.