AIMS: To identify currently available generic and disease specific measures of quality of life (QoL) for work with children; and make recommendations about the future development and application of QoL measures. METHODS: Systematic searches were conducted to identify measures of QoL. Primary research papers were coded by the authors on the basis of predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. RESULTS: Of the 137 papers included in the review, 43 involved the development of a new measure. These included 19 generic and 24 disease specific measures. Almost half the measures were developed in the USA. Measures were identified which were appropriate for children across a broad age range, and included provision for completion by different respondents (child only, parent only, or both). There were no clear distinctions between measures of QoL, health, or functional status. CONCLUSIONS: We have identified a small number of measures which fulfil basic requirements and could be used to assess QoL in clinical trials or following interventions. However, there remain a number of problems in measuring QoL in children. These include limited availability of disease specific measures; discrepancies between child and parent ratings; limited availability of measures for self completion by children; lack of precision regarding the content of domains of QoL; and the cultural appropriateness of measures developed elsewhere for children in the UK.