We evaluated the risk of unprovoked seizures after febrile convulsions and the factors prognostic of them in a cohort of 687 children who had an initial febrile seizure while residing in Rochester, Minnesota. Overall, children with febrile convulsions had a fivefold excess of unprovoked seizures, and the risk until the age of 25 was 7 percent. The risk ranged from 2.4 percent among children with simple febrile convulsions to 6 to 8 percent among children with a single complex feature--i.e., focal or prolonged seizures or repeated episodes of febrile convulsions with the same illness. For children with any two of the complex features, the risk was 17 to 22 percent, and for those with all three features, 49 percent. The occurrence of subsequent partial unprovoked seizures was strongly associated with all three of the complex features, whereas the occurrence of subsequent unprovoked seizures of generalized onset was associated with the number of febrile convulsions and a family history of unprovoked seizures. These results are consistent with the view that the increased risk of generalized-onset unprovoked seizures reflects a predisposition to both simple febrile convulsions and generalized-onset unprovoked seizures. The association between complex febrile convulsions and partial seizures, on the other hand, may reflect either a causal association or the presence of preexisting brain disease that is responsible for both the complex febrile seizures and later partial seizures.