Research on nursing ideology and the ethics of child and adolescent psychiatric nursing care is limited. The aim of this study was to describe and explore the ideological approaches guiding psychiatric nursing in child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient wards in Finland, and discuss the ethical, theoretical and practical concerns related to nursing ideologies. Data were collected by means of a national questionnaire survey, which included one open-ended question seeking managers' opinions on the nursing ideology used in their area of practice. Questionnaires were sent to all child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient wards (n = 69) in Finland; 61 ward managers responded. Data were analysed by qualitative and quantitative content analysis. Six categories -- family centred care, individual care, milieu centred care, integrated care, educational care and psychodynamic care -- were formed to specify ideological approaches used in inpatient nursing. The majority of the wards were guided by two or more approaches. Nursing models, theories and codes of ethics were almost totally ignored in the ward managers' ideological descriptions.