Introduction Research on quality of life (QoL) of school children with specific learning disabilities (SpLD) and their parents is scarce. The present study explores QoL deficits in newly diagnosed children with SpLD and their parents, in comparison to a similar age group of typically developing children. Possible associations between parental and child QoL were statistically explored in both groups of children. Methods 70 newly diagnosed children with SpLD [International Classification of Diseases-10 (ICD-10) criteria] (38 boys, 32 girls, mean age 10.1 years) and a control group of 69 typically developing children of the same age (40 boys, 29 girls, mean age 10.6 years) were recruited. Children were of normal intelligence quotient, attending mainstream schools. Their parents were also recruited so a child's scores could be associated with corresponding parental scores (mother or father). Children's QoL was assessed by the German questionnaire for measuring quality of life in children and adolescents (KINDLR) questionnaire and parental QoL by World Health Organization Quality of Life brief questionnaire (WHOQOL-BREF) of the World Health Organization. Results Children with SpLD in comparison to typically developing children reported according to the KINDLR measurement poorer emotional well-being, lower self-esteem and satisfaction in their relationships with family and friends. Surprisingly, school functioning was not reported by these children as an area of concern. Parents of children with SpLD indicated experiencing lower satisfaction in the WHOQOL-BREF domains of social relationships and environment. Correlational and regression analysis with parental-child QoL scores provided evidence that in the SpLD group, parental scores on WHOQOL-BREF social relationships and psychological health domains could be predictors of the child's emotional well-being, satisfaction with family, friends and school functioning. Stepwise regression analysis verified the effect of parents' WHOQOL-BREF social relationships domain on several dimensions of children's KINDLR QoL. Conclusions The results may suggest certain significant effects of the SpLD condition on newly diagnosed children's QoL. Emotional and social deficits seem to be experienced by this cohort of children and their parents. Investigation into the possible interrelationships between parental and child QoL seems to indicate that parental social wellbeing may to a certain extend influence some dimensions of the child's QoL. The findings are useful for policy making and specialized interventions for children with SpLD and their families. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.