Data from a regional EEG laboratory allowed us to identify almost all children in Nova Scotia (population 85,000) with one or more unprovoked, afebrile seizures from 1977 through 1985. We then reviewed hospital and pediatric neurology physician charts to limit cases to those with two or more definite afebrile seizures between the ages of 1 month and 16 years. In all, 693 children developed epilepsy: typical childhood absence seizures (AS) (97), either generalized tonic-clonic (GTCs) or partial seizures either secondarily generalized or not (511), and other generalized seizure types, including infantile spasms (IS) as well as myoclonic, akinetic, tonic, and atypical AS (85). The incidence of epilepsy was 118 in 100,000 for children aged less than 1 year, 48 in 100,000 for those aged 1-5 years, 43 in 100,000 for those aged 6-10 years, and 21 in 100,000 for those aged 11-15 years. The incidence for each year of age between 1 and 10 years was remarkably constant (mean 46 in 100,000 +/- 7 SD). Comparison of the incidence rates showed significant differences for those aged less than one year as compared with all others, and for those aged greater than 10 years as compared with those aged 1-10 years. We conclude that the incidence of epilepsy is highest in the first year of life, plateaus in early childhood, and decreases markedly after age 10 years. The overall incidence of epilepsy in childhood is lower than that reported in previous studies.