Atopic dermatitis mainly covers the period of infancy to adulthood, an important period in the development of an individual. The impairment of quality of life and the psychological wellbeing of children with atopic dermatitis have been well documented but so far no data exist about the impact of atopic dermatitis in childhood on fulfilling age-specific developmental tasks and achieving developmental milestones during this period, referred to as the course of life. The aims of this study were to: (i) assess the course of life and define the disease-related consequences in young adult patients with childhood atopic dermatitis and (ii) determine whether the severity of atopic dermatitis is predictive for the course of life, the disease-related consequences and quality of life later in life. Adult patients who grew up with atopic dermatitis were asked to complete a medical history questionnaire, the Skindex-29, the "course of life" questionnaire and a subjective disease-specific questionnaire. Patients with severe atopic dermatitis in childhood showed a significant delayed social development in their course of life. The results of the disease-specific questionnaire demonstrated remarkable high percentages of psycho-social consequences and physical discomfort caused by atopic dermatitis in childhood. Patients showed a severely negative impact of atopic dermatitis on their current quality of life. This is the first study that applied the "course of life" questionnaire in atopic dermatitis. More insight in the course of life, disease-specific consequences and quality of life of atopic dermatitis is of high importance, especially in case of severe atopic dermatitis. © 2009 The Authors.