While data on the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of adults are accumulating, very little is known about the HRQOL--and especially the perceived HRQOL--of children. In our study we introduced a 16-dimensional, generic self-assessment measure of HRQOL (16D) for early adolescents, and demonstrated its use with four populations of children aged 12-15: (1) 239 normal schoolchildren, (2) patients waiting for organ transplantation (n = 5), (3) patients with genetic skeletal dysplasias (n = 19), and (4) patients with epilepsy (n = 32). The HRQOL profiles of the patients differed significantly according to the diagnosis, giving support to its construct validity. The reliability of the measure was high: its repeatability coefficient was 91%. The quality of life ratings of the healthy boys and their parents differed on the dimensions of distress, vitality, speech, mental function, and discomfort and symptoms (p < 0.05). In addition, there were significant differences in the health-related valuations between the girls, boys and their parents. We conclude that the assessment of quality of life of adolescents should be based on data collected from the adolescents themselves. Further, the 16D is so far the only generic HRQOL measure designed specifically for this purpose. It is capable of differentiating the HRQOL of healthy adolescents as well as patients with various diagnoses. Our experience also indicates that it is easy to use, yet it seems comprehensive, reliable, and valid.