The aim of the present study was to determine the incidence of various causes of sudden unexpected child deaths (SUCD) and to assess the importance of an autopsy in predicting the likelihood of finding a cause of death. A retrospective analysis of autopsy findings in 97 cases of SUCD between the ages of 0-11 years was undertaken at the Council of Forensic Medicine, Ankara during a 5-year period (1995-2000). Cases were classified as explained causes (80.42 per cent) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (19.58 per cent). A total of 25.77 per cent of the deaths occurred in the neonatal period, 45.31 per cent of them in the first year of life and the remaining 28.86 per cent after 1 year of life. The causes of neonatal deaths were respiratory pathology (five cases), birth complications (four cases), gastrointestinal pathology (one case), homicide (10 cases), and SIDS (five cases). The incidence of SIDS in the newborn period was 33 per cent. The incidence of unexplained causes of deaths in the postneonatal period was 31 per cent and the causes of deaths were respiratory pathology (15 cases), aspiration (five cases), gastrointestinal pathology (four cases), SIDS (14 cases), and other causes (four cases). The study of an entire population provides more reliable data regarding causes of sudden unexpected child deaths than does the study of small groups and it is also recommended that in addition to a through evaluation, a detailed autopsy must be performed for each case in experienced centers.