- A theory for laminated composite shells and a finite element model based on this theory are presented. Due to a flexible layer-wise description of the displacement field, the theory accounts for an accurate description of the shear deformation and the stretching of transverse normals to the middle surface. With respect to other layer-wise theories which are available in the literature, the present one distinguishes itself by the use of the penalty method to enforce the perfect bonding between adjacent layers. This method offers the possibility to easily obtain accurate interlaminar stresses. Numerical results for simply supported laminated spherical shells are presented to show the features of the proposed theory and its accuracy. 1993.