BACKGROUND: Childhood studies have identified relationships between low birth weight and a variety of psychological disorders. However, very few studies have prospectively followed VLBW survivors into adulthood and none have examined adult psychiatric disorders in this population. OBJECTIVE: This exploratory study sought to determine the rates and nature of psychiatric disorders in very low birth weight (VLBW, birth weight < 1500 g) adults. METHOD: 117 VLBW participants and 32 normal birth weight (NBW, birth weight > 2499 g) controls, born 1977-1982, were assessed in early adulthood (24-29 years). Participants were first screened for psychopathology using the Symptoms Checklist (SCL-90-R). Participants who were elevated on this measure were eligible for a Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR (SCID-I/NP) to determine a formal psychiatric diagnosis. RESULTS: VLBW adults were more likely than controls to be elevated on the Global Severity Index (odds ratio (OR) = 4.29, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.96, 19.14) and the depression (OR = 5.17, 95%CI = 1.17, 23.00), paranoid ideation (OR = 4.08, 95%CI = 0.91, 18.23), hostility (relative risk (RR) = 1.34, 95%CI = 1.21, 1.49), and interpersonal sensitivity (OR = 3.80, 95%CI = 1.08, 13.32) subscales of the SCL-90-R. VLBW adults were also more likely to be diagnosed with a current mood disorder than NBW adults (RR = 1.36, 95%CI = 1.22, 1.51). CONCLUSIONS: VLBW adults are at greater risk of psychopathology than NBW peers.