Many marine organisms have pelagic larval stages that settle into benthic habitats occupied by older individuals; however, a mechanistic understanding of inter cohort interactions remains elusive for most species. Patterns of spatial covariation in the densities of juvenile and adult age classes of a small temperate reef fish, the common triplefin (Forsterygion lapillum), were evaluated during the recruitment season (Feb–Mar, 2011) in Wellington, New Zealand (41°17′S, 174°46′E). The relationship between juvenile and adult density among sites was best approximated by a dome-shaped curve, with a negative correlation between densities of juveniles and adults at higher adult densities. The curve shape was temporally variable, but was unaffected by settlement habitat type (algal species). A laboratory experiment using a “multiple-predator effects”design tested the hypothesis that increased settler mortality in the presence of adults (via enhanced predation risk or cannibalism) contributed to the observed negative relationship between juveniles and adults. Settler mortality did not differ between controls and treatments that contained either one (p = 0.08) or two (p = 0.09) adults. However, post hoca analyses revealed a significant positive correlation between the mean length of juveniles used in experimental trials and survival of juveniles in these treatments, suggesting that smaller juveniles may be vulnerable to cannibalism. There was no evidence for risk enhancement or predator interference when adults were present alongside a hetero specific predator (F. varium). These results highlight the complex nature of intercohort relationships in shaping recruitment patterns and add to the growing body of literature recognizing the importance of age class interactions.