OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present exploratory study was to determine the predictors of aggression and restraint in children admitted to a child psychiatric inpatient unit in Melbourne, Australia. METHOD: A retrospective review of incident report forms over a 12 month period at the State Wide Child Inpatient Unit (SWCIU) was conducted. These report forms were based upon 41 children aged 5-12 years, who had various psychiatric diagnoses including conduct disorder, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorders. RESULTS: A total of 70 children were admitted to the SWCIU during the audit period. Forty-one children aged 5-12 engaged in 235 violent incidents. A high-risk assessment and disruptive behaviour disorder were associated with aggressive behaviour and restraint. Disruptive behaviour disorder also predicted more serious episodes of aggression. CONCLUSIONS: There are readily identifiable patient factors that predict aggression and the need for restraint in child inpatient units.