We reviewed the records of 132 children with persistent hypertension who were evaluated by our pediatric nephrology services between 1987 and 1991. Eighty-nine (67%) of these children were found to have renal or renovascular disease, 30 (23%) had primary hypertension and 13 (10%) had a non-renal cause for their hypertension. Glomerulonephritis (n = 37) and reflux nephropathy (n = 26) were the most frequent renal disorders identified. Renal artery thrombosis was the most common cause of hypertension in the neonatal period (in 6 of 12 neonates, 50%) whereas cystic kidney disease was the most common cause of hypertension in the 1st year of life (in 9 of 30 infants, 30%). The prevalence of primary hypertension increased with age; this diagnosis was made in 16 of 46 (35%) hypertensive patients between 12 and 18 years of age and, more surprisingly, in 8 of 27 (30%) children between 7 and 11 years of age. These data confirm that secondary hypertension is the most common cause of hypertension in children but suggest that primary hypertension is more prevalent than previously recognized in patients between 7 and 18 years of age.