Fragile X syndrome is one of the most common forms of inherited mental retardation, and the first of a new class of genetic disorders associated with expanded trinucleotide repeats. Previously, we found that about 41% of affected males are mosaic for this mutation in that some of their blood cells have an active fragile X gene and others do not. It has been hypothesized that these mosaic cases should show higher levels of functioning than those who have only the inactive full mutation gene, but previous studies have provided negative or equivocal results. In the present study, the cross-sectional development of communication, self-care, socialization, and motor skills was studied in 46 males with fragile X syndrome under age 20 years as a function of two variables: age and the presence or absence of mosaicism. The rate of adaptive skills development was 2-4 times as great in mosaic cases as in full mutation cases. There was also a trend for cases with autism to be more prevalent in the full-mutation group. These results have implications for prognosis, for the utility of gene or protein replacement therapies for this disorder, and for understanding the association between mental retardation, developmental disorders, and fragile X syndrome.