Discontinuously reinforced metal matrix composites are susceptible to reinforcement particle cracking, which reduces tensile elongation. However, many of the particles experience multiple cracking episodes, which would seem unfavourable in a matrix filled with similar particles. Simulations of an aluminium matrix composite reinforced with 9 vol.-%SiC particles have been performed using a non-linear axisymmetric finite element model. Reinforcement particles with and without defects were cracked in the simulation in order to study the subsequent behaviour of the composite. Particle defects were found to decrease the impact of reinforcement particle cracking on the stress in the surrounding matrix. Multiple cracking of reinforcement particles was shown to be feasible because of the load bearing ability of fractured particles. © 2001 IoM Communications Ltd.