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A linked data file of birth records and hospital admissions was used to investigate inpatient hospital morbidity before 2 years of age for all non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children born in Western Australia in 1986. Of the non-Aboriginal children, 31.8% were admitted to hospital at least once before the age of 2 years, with an overall admission rate of 526/1000 live births; the corresponding figures for Aboriginal children were 68.7% and 2797. The mean number of days in hospital for each non-Aboriginal child admitted was 7.4, and 26.5 for Aboriginal children. Of the total cohort, 21% of non-Aboriginal and 20% of Aboriginal children were admitted only once, and 4% of non-Aboriginal and 36% of Aboriginal children were admitted at least three times; 23% of non-Aboriginal and 24% of Aboriginal children were admitted for only one major disease category, and 1% of non-Aboriginal and 16% of Aboriginal children were in at least four categories. The highest admission rates and highest percentages of the cohort admitted were for gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases and social admissions. These results illustrate the importance for both descriptive and analytical research of relating admissions to hospital for the total population to the individual child, and of using clinically relevant disease classifications.