A general way to look at kernel estimates of densities is to regard them as stochastic integrals with respect to a spatial point process. Under regularity conditions these behave asymptotically as if the point process were Poisson. However, this Poisson approximation may not work well if the data exhibits a lot of clustering. In this paper a more refined approximation to the characteristic functions of the integrals is developed. For clustered data, a ‘Gauss–Poisson’ approximation works better than the Poisson.