Aim Gross motor performance appears to be impaired in children with psychiatric disorders but little is known about which skill domains are affected in each disorder, nor about possible accompanying deficits in physical fitness. The present study has sought to provide information about these issues in children with emotional, behavioural, and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD).Method One hundred children receiving psychiatric care (81 males, 19 females, mean age 9y 11mo, SD 1y 8mo) completed both the Test of Gross Motor Development, measuring locomotion and object control, and the Motor Performance test, measuring neuromotor and aerobic fitness. The emotional disorders, behavioural disorders (BD), and PDD subgroups consisted of 17, 44 and 39 children respectively.Results The mean gross motor performance scores of the BD and PDD group were significantly (p<0.05) lower than the score of the emotional disorders group, but even the latter score was significantly lower (p<0.05) than the population norm score. Physical fitness was poor in all subgroups. The subdomains locomotion and object control were unusually highly correlated in the PDD group (r=0.68). Moreover, only in the PDD group were the locomotion scores significantly correlated with neuromotor fitness (r=0.47, p=0.02).Interpretation The specific combinations of impairments in gross motor skills and physical fitness in children with psychiatric disorders indicate the importance of the assessment of these domains in order to provide interventions tailored to the specific profile of each individual child. © The Authors. Journal compilation © Mac Keith Press 2010.