Background On 26 April 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant suffered an accident. Several areas of central Norway were heavily affected by far field radioactive fallout. The present study focuses on the psychological well-being of adolescents who were exposed to this radiation as fetuses. Methods The adolescents (n = 53) and their mothers reported their perceptions of the adolescents' current psychological health as measured by the Youth Self Report and Child Behaviour Checklist. Results In spite of previous reports of subtle cognitive deficits in these exposed adolescents, there were few self-reported problems and fewer problems reported by the mothers. This contrasts with findings of studies of children from the former Soviet Union exposed in utero, in which objective measures are inconsistent, and self-reports, especially by mothers, express concern for adolescents' cognitive functioning and psychological well-being. Conclusion In the current paper, we explore possible explanations for this discrepancy and suggest that protective factors in Norway, in addition to perceived physical and psychological distance from the disaster, made the mothers less vulnerable to Chernobyl-related anxiety, thus preventing a negative effect on the psychological health of both mother and child.