Adiponectin, a hormone produced and secreted by adipocytes, is present in circulation in high circulating concentrations, suggesting an important physiological role. An indirect regulator of glucose metabolism, adiponectin increases insulin sensitivity, improves glucose tolerance and inhibits inflammation. Plasma adiponectin relates inversely to adiposity and, importantly, reflects the sequelae of accumulation of excess adiposity. The role of adiponectin in adults has been explored in detail. Studies in children are now available and, given the increasing rates of childhood obesity, it is important to establish the role of adiponectin in mediating insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease in this age group. This paper reviews the regulation of adiponectin, its effect on body mass, glucose metabolism and cardiovascular risk in infants, children and adolescents. It demonstrates clear links between adiponectin and features of the metabolic syndrome in obese children and adolescents. However, adiponectin's role as a predictor of metabolic dysfunction in healthy, normal-weight youngsters is less clear.