'Inappropriate' attendance to Accident and Emergency Departments (AEDs) has been shown in many studies to be a sizeable problem. However, only one previous study has investigated inappropriate attendance to these departments amongst children. In this paper we report an investigation of 'inappropriate' usage of a children's AED in Nottingham. Information was collected relating to a representative sample of children who attended this department during September and October 1989 by interviewing the adults accompanying them to the AED and by examining the children's AED medical records. Using defined criteria, the doctors treating each child within the AED assessed whether their attendance was 'appropriate' to the department. Nearly a third (30.1 per cent) of the patients studied were subsequently considered to be inappropriate attenders to this department. This proportion was highest amongst younger children, those from families of lower social class and those living closest to the hospital. 'Inappropriate' attendance was not found to relate to the availability of general practitioners. The reasons stated for choosing to attend the AED suggested that these attendances resulted from perceptions of the adult(s) accompanying the children to the department. In view of this finding, action is required to correct these perceptions, although it is recognized that this may be difficult to achieve.