This study investigated the psychological and emotional functioning of children with congenital heart disease (CHD) subjected to surgery. Children aged 2-12 years with CHD who underwent cardiac surgery were enrolled. Information was collected prior to surgery and 12 months or later following surgery. Measures included assessment of the child's receptive vocabulary, adaptive behaviour skills, emotional and behavioural development, temperament and parent quality of life, as well as surgical data. Similar information was collected from a control group prior to undergoing non-cardiac surgery. Of the 69 children contacted to enrol, completed pre- and post-surgical data were obtained from 39 children, and pre-surgical data from 12 controls. Children with CHD subjected to surgery displayed psychological and emotional functioning indistinguishable from normative populations or the control group. These findings persisted at reassessment 12-50 months after surgery. Psychological functioning at follow-up was most closely related to functioning prior to surgery. Significant residual defects and the need for further surgery were associated with poorer functioning. The results suggest an optimistic psychological and emotional outcome following cardiac surgery. This study may assist in identifying children most at risk of adverse outcomes after cardiac surgery and help guide therapeutic interventional programmes.