In this prospective, longitudinal study, the relative impact of intracranial hemorrhage and prolonged mechanical ventilation on developmental progress during the first 18 months of life of infants weighing 1,200 g or less at birth was examined. A total of 159 surviving infants were divided into two groups: infants with and those without intracranial hemorrhage. These groups were then subdivided into groups of infants receiving prolonged mechanical ventilation (greater than 21 days) and those mechanically ventilated for 21 days or less, thus creating four subgroups. Group 1 (intracranial hemorrhage and prolonged mechanical ventilation) and group 3 (intracranial hemorrhage and no prolonged mechanical ventilation) showed no statistically significant differences for severity of intracranial hemorrhage, persistence of ventriculomegaly, or presence of periventricular leukomalacia. A repeated-measures analysis of variance demonstrated a main effect for prolonged mechanical ventilation on outcome as measured by the Bayley Mental Development Index and Bayley Psychomotor Development Index at 4, 8, 12, and 18 months of age (corrected for prematurity). Forward stepwise regression revealed prolonged mechanical ventilation to the best predictor of Bayley indexes at all ages except 4 months of age, for which the Psychomotor Development Index was best predicted by length of hospitalization. No main effect for intracranial hemorrhage was demonstrated, but the motor performance of infants with intracranial hemorrhage declined significantly with age. By contrast prolonged mechanical ventilation was associated with uniformly poor performance at every age and serves as a powerful marker for poor developmental progress during the first 18 months of life in infants weighing 1,200 g or less at birth.