Objective: To investigate factors influencing general practitioner referrals of children with psychiatric disorders to specialist services. Method: One hundred and sixty seven general practitioners were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire concerning their referral practices. Results: Emotional disorder, conduct disorder, drug abuse and habit disorder were the problems most likely to be referred to the child psychiatric clinic. Parental concern and the severity of the child's illness were considered to be more important than social circumstances in determining referral to specialist services. Conclusions: Many general practitioners indicated that they would have referred children with psychiatric disorders to specialist services other than child psychiatry. Proactive liaison work is needed to increase the awareness and confidence of general practitioners in child psychiatric services.