The aim of this study was to assess the relation between blood pressure (BP) and arterial compliance in a healthy sample of young adults. School children (aged 10 to 14 years at entry) were surveyed in 1977 to 1978, and 1,207 were followed once to twice yearly until age 23 years. Arterial compliance was measured in 179 adults at the last follow-up visit. The sample included individuals in the upper tertile of systolic BP during the last three follow-up visits and race- and sex-matched individuals in the lower two tertiles. We obtained radial artery waveforms using a calibrated tonometer device and characterized waveform morphology to determine large artery (C1) and oscillatory (C2) compliance. Blood pressure was measured using random zero sphygmomanometers. The mean and standard deviation of C1 was 2.13 +/- 0.59 mL/mm Hg and of C2 was 0.083 +/- 0.02 mL/mm Hg. Systolic BP was inversely related to C1 (P < .001) and C2 (P < .01) after adjustment for gender, height, weight, insulin, and HDL and LDL cholesterol. After adjustment, a 1 SD change in systolic BP was associated with a -0.30 mL/mm Hg change in C1 and a -.008 mL/mm Hg change in C2. Data from the Minnesota Children's Blood Pressure Study indicate that systolic BP is inversely related to arterial compliance, particularly C1 (the large artery, or capacitive compliance).