OBJECTIVE: To compare the linear growth and nutritional parameters of a group of Malaysian children with cerebral palsy (CP) against a group of controls, and to determine the nutritional, medical and sociodemographic factors associated with poor growth in children with CP. METHODOLOGY: The linear growth of 101 children with CP and of their healthy controls matched for age, sex and ethnicity was measured using upper-arm length (UAL). Nutritional parameters of weight, triceps skin-fold thickness and mid-arm circumference were also measured. Total caloric intake was assessed using a 24-h recall of a 3-day food intake and calculated as a percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine nutritional, medical and sociodemographic factors associated with poor growth (using z-scores of UAL) in children with CP. RESULTS: Compared with the controls, children with CP had significantly lower mean UAL measurements (difference between means -1.1, 95\% confidence interval -1.65 to - 0.59), weight (difference between means -6.0, 95\% CI -7.66 to -4.34), mid-arm circumference (difference between means -1.3, 95\% CI -2.06 to -0.56) and triceps skin-fold thickness (difference between means -2.5, 95\% CI -3.5 to -1.43). Factors associated with low z-scores of UAL were a lower percentage of median weight (P < 0.001), tube feeding (P < 0.001) and increasing age (P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: A large proportion of Malaysian children with CP have poor nutritional status and linear growth. Nutritional assessment and management at an early age might help this group of children achieve adequate growth.