The appropriateness and therapeutic value of physical contact with children is under increasing scrutiny. We conducted a postal questionnaire and telephone survey of consultant child and adolescent psychiatrists within Great Britain to investigate attitudes of specialists towards physical contact with their patients in different clinical contexts. Here we report that psychiatrists tend to restrict physical contact to the minimum essential for patient comfort or safety. Decision-making about contact is primarily influenced by professional experience and training. This conservative approach to physical contact with patients has implications for clinical practice and requires to be better informed by evidence.