We describe here a new test for dispositional optimism and pessimism in young children, the Parent-rated Life Orientation Test of children (the PLOT) and assess its psychometric properties. Two hundred and twenty one mother–father pairs rated their children's (mean age = 8.1, SD = 0.3 years) dispositional optimism and pessimism using a new scale, the PLOT, including four optimism and four pessimism items. We associated the PLOT with parent-rated self-esteem (Behavioral Rating Scale of Presented Self-Esteem in Young Children), social competence (Social Competence and Behaviour Evaluation Scale, the SCBE-30), psychiatric symptoms (Child Behaviour Checklist, the CBCL) and temperament (Children's Behaviour Questionnaire, the CBQ) of the child. A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) of the mother- and father-rated PLOT revealed a significantly better fit for a two- over a one-factor solution (p < 0.001). The optimism and pessimism subscales displayed good reliabilities, inter-parental agreement and modest to moderate associations, in the expected direction, with the measures of self-esteem, social competence, temperament and behaviour problems. To conclude, the PLOT shows good construct and convergent validity and reliability. The findings encourage its use to assess early emerging generalized expectancies of positive and negative outcomes in young children. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.