Background: The aim was to examine basic performance on attention and memory tasks in treatment-naive children and adolescents with anxiety disorder or depressive disorder and in healthy subjects under drug-free conditions. Methods: Basic neurocognitive performance on attention and verbal memory tasks was examined in children and adolescents with emotional disorders, between 6 and 17 years of age. A total of 34 children with an anxiety disorder, 31 children with a depressive disorder, and 33 healthy controls were assessed with a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery. All children were treatment-naive at the time of testing. Five different computerised attention tasks and the Rey Auditory-Verbal Learning Test were administered. Results: A significant effect of diagnosis was found for verbal memory but not for attention. Limitations: The large age range and inclusion of different diagnoses resulted in rather inhomogeneous groups. Conclusion: The present study provided evidence for an undisturbed attentional performance in both patient groups and a dissociation in memory functioning between anxious and depressed children. Memory impairment was found to be specifically associated with childhood depression.