Receptive vocabulary development is a component of the human language system that emerges in the first year of life and is characterised by onward expansion throughout life. Beginning in infancy, children's receptive vocabulary knowledge builds the foundation for oral language and reading skills. The foundations for success at school are built early, hence the public health policy focus on reducing developmental inequalities before children start formal school. The underlying assumption is that children's development is stable, and therefore predictable, over time. This study investigated this assumption in relation to children's receptive vocabulary ability. We investigated the extent to which low receptive vocabulary ability at 4 years was associated with low receptive vocabulary ability at 8 years, and the predictive utility of a multivariate model that included child, maternal and family risk factors measured at 4 years. The study sample comprised 3,847 children from the first nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Multivariate logistic regression was used to investigate risks for low receptive vocabulary ability from 4-8 years and sensitivity-specificity analysis was used to examine the predictive utility of the multivariate model. In the multivariate model, substantial risk factors for receptive vocabulary delay from 4-8 years, in order of descending magnitude, were low receptive vocabulary ability at 4 years, low maternal education, and low school readiness. Moderate risk factors, in order of descending magnitude, were low maternal parenting consistency, socio-economic area disadvantage, low temperamental persistence, and NESB status. The following risk factors were not significant: One or more siblings, low family income, not reading to the child, high maternal work hours, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ethnicity. The results of the sensitivity-specificity analysis showed that a well-fitted multivariate model featuring risks of substantive magnitude does not do particularly well in predicting low receptive vocabulary ability from 4-8 years. © 2014 Christensen et al.