We have compared results obtained with an uncalibrated respiratory inductance plethysmograph (RIP) with those of a face mask and pneumotachograph (PNT) for the computerized measurement of the time to reach peak tidal expiratory flow as a ratio of total expiratory time (tPTEF:tE). Simultaneous measurements were made in 32 healthy neonates aged 0-3 weeks, 35 healthy infants aged 5-82 weeks, and 28 infants aged 15-94 weeks with physician diagnosed recurrent wheeze. The group mean (+/- SD) values of tPTEF:TE determined using a PNT were 0.455 (+/- 0.129), 0.263 (+/- 0.077), and 0.232 (+/- 0.089) for the neonates, healthy infants and infants with recurrent wheeze respectively. RIP gave mean (+/- SD) values that were 0.055 (+/- 0.044) and 0.025 (+/- 0.104) lower than the PNT in healthy neonates and infants with recurrent wheeze respectively; RIP values were 0.002 (+/- 0.073) higher in the healthy infants over 4 weeks of age than measurements by PNT. Although the difference between the two measurements was not related to the thoracoabdominal phase angle, as measured from Lissajous figures, examination of the RIP ribcage and abdominal signals revealed that many healthy subjects, while appearing clinically in phase, had ribcage and abdominal signals that differed markedly from each other in terms of convexity/concavity during early expiration. This may explain the lack of agreement between the two methods. We conclude that uncalibrated RIP should be used with caution for the determination of tPTEF:tE, even in subjects whose ribcage and abdomen appear to move synchronously. The measurement of tPTEF:tE did not differentiate between the healthy infants and infants with recurrent wheezing.