Seclusion is now widely recognized as a coercive strategy with negative consequences for the consumers and staff involved. Nevertheless, this intervention continues to be used frequently in mental health services internationally. Due to their direct care role, nurses are commonly involved in the initiation or management of seclusion. Understanding nurses' attitudes to seclusion is therefore essential for the success of any attempts to reduce its use. A review of the literature was conducted using the search terms 'patient', 'seclusion', 'attitudes', 'nurses' and 'containment'. Twenty-eight articles which met the inclusion criteria were identified. Analysis of these articles identified six main themes: a necessary intervention; workplace culture; staff composition and experience; conflict; ethical considerations; and consumer characteristics. An overview of the literature is presented according to these main themes. The research suggests that most nurses support the continued use of seclusion as a strategy for the management of violence and aggression. A deeper understanding of the factors that influence attitudes is necessary if seclusion rates are to be effectively reduced.