To determine whether detection of antiplatelet autoantibodies (AAb) to glycoproteins IIb/IIIa and Ib/IX may be useful in defining different forms of chronic thrombocytopenic purpura (TP) in children, we analyzed for AAb the platelet and plasma samples from 36 children with chronic TP (mean duration 4.4 years), from 31 children with normal platelet counts at the time of blood sampling but with chronic TP in the past (mean duration 2.9 years), and from 23 adults with chronic TP; the results were correlated with the clinical data. Antiplatelet autoantibodies were detected in 26 (72.2%) of 36 children with ongoing TP, 15 (48.4%) of 31 children with TP in the past, and 12 (66.7%) of 18 adults with TP. All children with high AAb ratios (greater than 5 times the control mean + 3 SD) were more than 8 years of age at diagnosis (mean age 12.4 years compared with 7.1 years in children with moderate or negative AAb levels; p = 0.003). The results suggest that the outcome for adolescents with high platelet-associated AAb levels may be similar to that of adults, whereas younger children may have a greater chance of spontaneous remission. The children with chronic TP in the past and elevated platelet-associated AAb levels may have a "compensated" TP and therefore may be at risk for relapses. Future studies aimed at serial AAb determination throughout the patients' courses may further define TP subgroups.