A cohesive zone model is suggested for modelling of interface fracture near flaws in adhesive joints. A shear-loaded adhesive joint bonded with a planar circular bond region is modelled using both the cohesive zone model and a fracture mechanical model. Results from the models show good agreement of crack propagation on the location and shape of the crack front and on the initial joint strength. Subsequently, the cohesive zone model is used to model interface fracture through a planar adhesive layer containing a periodic array of elliptical flaws. The effects of flaw shape are investigated, as well as the significance of fracture process parameters. The results from simulations of fracture in a bond containing circular flaws show that localization of crack propagation in the vicinity of a flaw has significant effect on the joint strength and crack front shape. The localization effects are highly dependent on the fracture process zone width relative to the flaw dimensions. It is also seen that with increasing fracture process zone width, the strength variation with the flaw shape decreases, however, the strength is effected over a wider range of propagation, (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.