Personality and behavioural characteristics of a population-based cohort of 29 very low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants were compared with those of 29 matched, term controls at eight years of age. The VLBW infants were born to families of lower socioeconomic status (p = 0.04) and had a lower mean IQ (93 versus 104, p = 0.008) and motor abilities (p = 0.028). Based on the questionnaire personality inventory for children, the VLBW children had more learning difficulties and school coping problems, and the VLBW boys had more conduct and emotional problems than the controls. Except for conduct problems, these differences persisted after controlling for socioeconomic status. Generally, there were significant relationships between behaviour, IQ and motor abilities. In conclusion, VLBW may be a risk factor for the development of school coping and behavioural problems independent of socioeconomic status but often coexist with impaired cognitive and neuromotor function.