The social adjustment of 45 young adult renal patients who commenced treatment for end stage renal disease (ESRD) as children and of 48 age and sex matched controls were compared. Renal patients were less socially mature than controls. More lived with their parents, fewer had an intimate relationship outside the family, they had fewer school qualifications, and there was more unemployment among them. The majority, however, were in employment and the level of subjective stress and support derived from most of these areas was comparable in renal patients and in controls. Having a close relationship with a member of the opposite sex was the only domain in which renal patients reported more stress than controls. Early start of illness and current health problems were associated with poorer social outcome. A lifelong history of ESRD leads to suboptimal or delayed social functioning on conventional indicators. However this does not lead to increased overall distress in the patients about their social circumstances and quality of life does not appear to be substantially impaired.