This study examined the role of enteric pathogens and infant, family, and household characteristics in persistent diarrhea. Bedouin infants from southern Israel were followed from birth to age 18-23 months. During monthly home visits, stool samples were obtained, and feeding practices and history of diarrhea were determined, and at age 3 months, an environmental assessment was done. Diarrhea surveillance was either via a network covering all community health care facilities or via weekly interviews with the mother. None of the enteric pathogens examined, including Cryptosporidium parvum and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli, were associated with persistent diarrhea. In multivariate analyses, age at first diarrheal illness and maternal age and maternal education were independently and significantly associated with the risk of persistent diarrhea. These data suggest that persistent diarrhea is a clinical entity that may be related less to a specific enteric pathogen and more to the health experiences of children and their home environment.