This report describes the secondary sexual development of 45 'Cape Coloured' female ex-kwashiorkor patients and 43 female controls. All patients were originally seen between five months and four years four months of age, treated and then followed up for 15 years after discharge. Age at menarche was available on 42 ex-patients and 33 controls, and age at peak height velocity (PHV) was available for 30 ex-patients and 15 controls. Maximum likelihood estimates of the mean age at entry to each pubertal stage were made, age at menarche was obtained directly from the subject records and age at PHV was obtained by fitting a non-linear growth function to the data for each subject. All subjects passed through the sequence of pubertal events in the normal order, i.e., no reversals were observed. Ex-patients were generally delayed in relation to controls but there were no significant differences for ages at entry to any of the pubertal stages. The subjects were combined for comparison to equivalent data on British girls. The South African girls were significantly delayed in the development of public hair and menarche but showed no significant differences for age at entry or duration of breast development and PHV. It is suggested that lack of delay in breast development may have selective advantages of females living in situations of chronic malnutrition. © 1988 Informa UK Ltd All rights reserved: reproduction in whole or part not permitted.