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From January to March 1980, a consecutive sample of 50 children admitted to hospital with acute abdominal pain provisionally diagnosed as appendicitis but who recovered spontaneously without a specific physical diagnosis was studied. The instruments used were a standardized parental interview and Rutter A(2) and B(2) questionnaires which are designed as screening devices to explore levels of emotional adjustment in children. A comparison was made with 43 children (controls) matched for sex and age from the same schools. Forty children suffering from acute appendicitis were studied in the same way. A significantly increased number of children in the nonspecific group obtained abnormal scores on the Rutter Scales compared with the control group (P less than 0.025). An unexpectedly large number (31%) of boys suffering from acute appendicitis obtained abnormal scores on the Rutter Scales. Postal follow up three months following discharge from hospital indicated that 8 (16%) of the nonspecific group were incapacitated to the extent of missing school. During the study, 15 children had a normal appendix removed at operation. Seven of them showed a significant degree of maladjustment.