Peak bone mass is an important determinant of the risk of osteoporotic fracture, and preventive strategies against osteoporosis require a clear understanding of the factors influencing bone gain in early life. We report a longitudinal study aiming to identify the relationships between childhood growth, lifestyle, and peak bone mass in women. One hundred and fifty-three women born in a British city during 1968-1969 were traced and studied in 1990. Data on their growth in childhood was obtained from linked birth and school health records; current bone mineral measurements were made by dual X-ray absorptiometry. There were statistically significant associations between weight at 1 year and BMC (but not BMD) at the lumbar spine (r = 0.32, p < 0.01) and femoral neck (r = 0.26, p < 0.01). These remained significant after adjusting for current weight. There were also strong relationships between childhood height measurements and adult BMC at the two skeletal sites. Physical activity was the major lifestyle determinant of BMD after allowing for body build. We conclude that infant growth and physical activity in childhood are important determinants of peak bone mass in women. Growth primarily determines the size of the skeletal envelope, and its trajectory is established by age 1 year. Activity, in contrast, modulates the mineral density within the skeletal envelope and may contribute to the consolidation of bone following the end of linear growth.