Evidence is reviewed for a developmentally-emerging behavioral phenotype in individuals with Down syndrome that includes significant delay in nonverbal cognitive development accompanied by additional, specific deficits in speech, language production, and auditory short-term memory in infancy and childhood, but fewer adaptive behavior problems than individuals with other cognitive disabilities. Evidence of dementia emerges for up to half the individuals studied after age 50. Research issues affecting control group selection in establishing phenotypic characteristics are discussed, as well as the possible genetic mechanisms underlying variation in general cognitive delay, specific language impairment, and adult dementia. MRDD Research Reviews 2000;6:84-95. Wiley-Liss, Inc.