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A clinical and family study was carried out in 169 children attending schools for the mildly mentally retarded in Southampton to assess the prevalence of recognised medical risk factors; 71 children (42%) had such risk factors. These were prenatal in 22, perinatal in 41, and postnatal in eight. Risk factors of possible, but less certain, significance were found in a further 63 children (37%). In 86 families (51%) there was a history of serious educational problems in both parents. The prevalence of both types of risk factor was higher in the children whose parents had no educational problems. There were, however, 25 children (15%) whose parents had no history of educational problems and in whom medical risk factors were either absent or minimal.