This report examines clinical features of ‘pure’ dysthymic disorder (DD, without superimposed major depressive disorder, MDD) in a sample of children and adolescents. Profiles of symptomatology and comorbidity as a function of age and gender are described. The sample consisted of 48 subjects (22 males, 26 females, age range 7–18 years, mean age 12.1 years) screened from consecutively referred children and adolescents. All subjects were comprehensively diagnosed with structured diagnostic interviews (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age, Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents-Revised), according to DSM-IV criteria. Depressed mood, irritability, loss of energy and fatigue, guilt and low self-esteem were present in more than 70% of the subjects. Differences in symptomatic profile between males and females were not significant. Children showed less symptoms than adolescents, but the symptomatic profile was comparable (only anhedonia was significantly more frequent in adolescents). Anxiety disorders were more commonly comorbid with DD, especially separation anxiety disorder in children (33%) and generalised anxiety disorder in adolescents (67%). Externalising disorders were less frequently represented in our sample (14%). An early diagnosis of ‘pure’ DD before the first episode of MDD is crucial for a timely intervention.