The relationship between hippocampal sclerosis, febrile seizures, and complex partial seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy continues to be the subject of great debate in the literature. Hippocampal sclerosis is reported infrequently in young children with temporal lobe epilepsy, a factor that has supported the theory that hippocampal sclerosis develops in later life during the course of recurrent complex partial seizures. In a blinded review of magnetic resonance imaging in 53 children, aged 2-17 years (mean: 10 years) with temporal lobe epilepsy, hippocampal sclerosis was diagnosed in 30 children (57%), concordant with ictal electroencephalographic lateralization in 93% and pathologic diagnosis in all children who had undergone surgery and had hippocampal tissue available for histologic examination. Fourteen of the children (47%) with hippocampal sclerosis were younger than 10 years of age, the youngest being 2 years. Thirty-four children (64%) had histories of neurologic insults prior to the onset of complex partial seizures, including idiopathic febrile seizures in 22. Hippocampal sclerosis was associated with a history of a neurologic insult prior to the onset of complex partial seizures (P < .001) and was not associated with age at onset of temporal lobe epilepsy, age at magnetic resonance imaging, duration of epilepsy, or presence of secondarily generalized seizures. These findings suggest that hippocampal sclerosis is underdiagnosed in children and is the cause and not the consequence of temporal lobe epilepsy.