Using a child sample, we examined the effects of the phase of narrow-band electroencephalographic (EEG) activity at stimulus onset on the resultant event-related potentials (ERPs) in an equiprobable auditory Go/NoGo task with a fixed stimulus-onset asynchrony. We used FFT decomposition of the EEG at Cz to assess prestimulus narrow-band EEG activity (in 1. Hz bands from 1 to 13. Hz) for each trial. From the cycle at stimulus onset, trials were sorted into four phases for each of the 13 frequencies. ERPs were derived for each of these from the raw EEG activity at the midline sites. ERP responses were analysed in the context of a simple conceptualisation of orthogonal phase effects (cortical negativity vs. positivity, negative driving vs. positive driving, waxing vs. waning). At a number of frequencies, crossing the traditional frequency bands, the predicted non-random occurrence of phase-defined brain states was confirmed. The preferred states of negativity and negative driving were each associated with more efficient stimulus processing, as reflected in latency and amplitude differences of the N1 and P3 ERP components. The present results confirm the existence of preferred brain states and their impact on the efficiency of brain dynamics involved in perceptual and cognitive processing, and extend their occurrence from adults to children. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.