The latent period to forelimb paresis following photon irradiation of the cervical spinal cord was evaluated in Sprague-Dawley rats ranging in age from 9 days to adulthood. The radiation was administered dorsally in single fractions, and in 15-day-old animals, to different lengths of the rostral cord and in doses ranging from 16 to 38 Gy. The duration of the latent period was found to be directly proportional to the age of the animal at the time of irradiation, and independent of radiation dose or the volume of the cervical cord which was irradiated. In the majority of paretic animals, the irradiated segment of the spinal cord demonstrated white matter necrosis. The results indicate that in the developing rat, the manifestations of radiation myelopathy are delayed by an interval determined in part by the age of the animal at the time of irradiation.