Now and then children and adolescents are admitted as emergencies to adult psychiatric wards. The reasons for these admissions are frequently pronounced aggressiveness, behavioural problems, and threat of suicide or intended suicide. The aim of the study was to describe the cause of admission for those children and adolescents (younger than 18 years) that in the period concerned were admitted as emergencies to the adult psychiatric ward in Frederiksberg, Denmark. During the ten-year period concerned there were 42 emergency admissions. Compulsory measures according to the mental health act were used in one-third of the admissions. Forty percent of the admissions lasted more than one month. An arrangement for treatment after discharge was not achieved in one-third of the admissions. The most common diagnoses were adjustment disorder and conduct disorder. On the basis of this retrospective review the need for a locked adolescent ward is considered to be a relevant part of an emergency psychiatric service. There is an ethical problem in those cases where children and adolescents cannot be motivated for treatment after discharge.