Introduction: This paper describes the development and initial psychometric evaluation of the Handicap Scale for Children (HSC). This questionnaire is based on the London Handicap Scale (LHS), a valid and reliable utility instrument for measuring social participation in adults. Methods: A multidisciplinary research group was involved in developing the HSC. The questionnaire was tested in 114 children with a chronic disease and 239 healthy children in the 8-18 age range. Relating the Health Utility Index Mark 3 (HUI3) attributes to corresponding HSC scores tested the assumption that a negative health status would lead to participation problems. Results: Questionnaire development resulted in a five-dimension questionnaire: mobility, physical independence, daily activities, social integration and orientation. Each dimension included one item with a six-point response scale. A higher score indicates greater handicap. Feasibility testing with 10 children showed that none of the children experienced difficulties in filling in the questionnaire. Conceptual validity, measured by correlations between the dimensions of the HSC and HUI3, was satisfactory. As expected, moderate correlation coefficients between predefined pairs of HUI and HSC attributes were found; other correlation coefficients were low. Criterion validity was also satisfactory, as shown by large differences between the healthy and the chronically ill group and by several criteria within the chronically ill group. Conclusion: Based on this initial evaluation, the questionnaire seems feasible and valid for use with children in the age range 8-18 years. © 2005 Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.