The relative risks and benefits of children attending kindergarten or pre-school remain uncertain and controversial. We used data from the Bavarian Pre-School Morbidity Survey (BPMS) to look at the prevalence of developmental impairments in pre-school children entering primary school and to assess if these were correlated with the duration of kindergarten attendance. We collected data from all school beginners in the district of Dingolfing, Bavaria from 2004 to 2007 (n = 4,005) and utilised a retrospective cross-sectional study design to review the information. The children were assessed for motor, cognitive, language and psychosocial impairments using a standardized medical assessment. Point prevalence of impairments of speech, cognition, motor functioning and psychosocial functioning were compared by chi(2)-test for the variable of time spent in kindergarten. We detected a high incidence of impairments, with boys showing higher rates than girls in all the areas assessed. Longer length of time spent in kindergarten was associated with reduced rates of motor, cognitive and psychosocial impairments. There was no clear correlation between length of kindergarten attendance and speech disorders. Kindergarten attendance may have a positive effect on a number of domains of development including motor, cognitive and psychosocial development, but no significant effect on speech impairments. Implications for public health policies are discussed.