Objective: Few studies have examined the impact of obesity on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in non-clinical community samples of children, and methodological limitations have hindered drawing firm conclusions, especially whether the impact is similar across racial/ethnic groups. The present aims were to examine at what levels of non-normal weight, school-aged children experience lower HRQOL and whether this differs among racial/ethnic groups, when controlling for socioeconomic status (SES) differences.Design: Cross-sectional community cohort survey.Subjects and methods:Data are from the Healthy Passages, reporting on 4824 Latino, black and white 5th graders in a population-based survey conducted in three United States metropolitan areas. Children's weight status was classified from measured weight and height into underweight (1%), normal weight (52%), overweight (19%), obese (13%) and extremely obese (14%). Children reported their own HRQOL using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory and additional scales addressing global self-worth, physical appearance and body satisfaction. Parents reported children's overall health status. Results: Each increment in higher non-healthy weight class - overweight to obese to extremely obese - was associated with significantly lower scores in more domains of psychosocial HRQOL compared with that in normal weight. However, only extremely obese children reported significantly lower physical HRQOL. Differences among weight classes remained when adjusting for SES and were independent of race/ethnicity. Underweight children generally reported HRQOL that was not significantly different from normal weight children. Conclusions: Overweight, obese and extremely obese 5th graders on average experience worse HRQOL than normal weight children, especially in psychosocial domains including self-worth and peer relationships, regardless of race/ethnicity. If messages can be conveyed in a sensitive and supportive manner, the desire to improve HRQOL could provide additional motivation for children and their parents in addressing unhealthy weight. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited.