Latent inhibition (LI) refers to retarded conditioning to a stimulus as a consequence of its prior nonreinforced pre-exposure, and is considered to index the capacity of an organism to ignore irrelevant stimuli. LI disruption has received increasing attention as an animal model of the widely described attentional deficit of schizophrenia, consisting of an inability to ignore irrelevant stimuli. The present experiments investigated the effects of infantile manipulations on the development of LI. Male and female rats handled or nonhandled in infancy (days 1-22), were tested at 3 and 16 months. Young handled animals had lower emotional reactivity than nonhandled, and this difference persisted in females at 16 months. At 3 months. LI, poorer conditioning of stimulus pre-exposed as compared to nonpre-exposed rats, was obtained in handled and nonhandled females, as well as in handled males, but was absent in nonhandled males. This pattern changed at 16 months: both nonhandled males and females failed to show LI. These gender- and age-dependent effects of pre-weaning manipulations on LI loss may provide an animal parallel to the susceptibility of young adult males to schizophrenia and the attenuation of gender differences in long-term outcome schizophrenia.