The effect of parental life change on children's mental and social development was explored in a longitudinal study of 193 families. Data on life changes, social supports, home environment, child development and interactions were obtained in a series of nine interviews from before the child's birth to 48 months after birth. For the sample as a whole, significant negative correlations were obtained between maternal life change in the first year of the child's life, and the child's IQ and receptive language at 4 years. An examination of subgroups revealed, however, that this relationship was strongest for mothers low in both personal coping resources and in social support. Findings suggest that both direct and indirect effects of maternal life change on the child contribute to the observed relationship.