BACKGROUND: There are limited data on the influence of body composition, sex, seasonality, ethnicity, and geographic location on the components of energy expenditure in children. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to examine the determinants of total energy expenditure (TEE), resting energy expenditure (REE), and activity-related energy expenditure (AEE) in children. DESIGN: Cross-sectional data from 232 children (4-10 y of age) from 4 ethnic groups (white American, African American, Guatemalan Mestizo, and Native American Mohawk) were examined. RESULTS: In 104 white children studied in Vermont and Alabama, TEE was significantly higher in spring than in fall, higher in boys than in girls, and higher in children in Vermont (all effects: approximately 0.42 MJ/d, P < 0.05). The significant effect of sex was explained through REE; the influences of season and location were explained through AEE. In all children, there was no effect of sex but a significant effect of ethnicity (P < 0.01) on TEE: a significant effect of sex (P < 0.01) and no effect of ethnicity (P = 0.16) on REE; and no effect of sex and a significant effect of ethnicity on AEE. The significant effects of ethnicity were due to lower values in Guatemalan children. TEE correlated most strongly with weight (r = 0.81) and fat-free mass (r = 0.79-0.81); REE with weight (r = 0.85) and fat-free mass (r = 0.80-0.87); and AEE with maximal oxygen consumption (r = 0.54), fat-free mass (r = 0.50), and fat mass (r = 0.49). CONCLUSIONS: 1) Season and location influenced TEE in children through their effects on AEE, 2) a higher REE in boys was consistent across all groups examined, 3) Guatemalan children had lower TEE due to a lower AEE, 4) body weight may be the best predictor of TEE, and 5) maximal oxygen consumption was the strongest marker of AEE.