Abstract A finite element (FE) model using coupling continuum shell elements and cohesive elements is proposed to simulate the compression after impact (CAI) behaviour and predict the CAI strength of stitched composites. Continuum shell elements with Hashin failure criterion exhibit the composite laminate damage behaviour; whilst cohesive elements using traction-separation law characterise the laminate interfaces. Impact-induced delamination is explicitly modelled by reducing material properties of damaged cohesive elements. Computational results have demonstrated the trend of increasing CAI strength with decreasing impact-induced delamination area. Spring elements are introduced into the model to represent through-thickness stitch thread in the composite laminates. Results in this study validate experimental finding that CAI strength is improved when stitching is incorporated into the composite structure. The proposed FE model reveals good CAI strength predictions and indicates good agreement with experimental results, making it a valuable tool for CAI strength prediction of stitched composites.