The aim of this study was to analyse the frequency and pattern of family (domestic) violence in a group of psychiatric in-patients by using the Conflict Tactics Scale. The study is based on a consecutive series of 55 married or cohabiting psychiatric in-patients treated at Huddinge Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden in 1994. The study shows that males and females use similar types of both violent and non-violent strategies when trying to solve marital conflicts. Depressed patients use both non-violent and violent methods less often than non-depressed patients, while the opposite is true for patients with a personality disorder, and for schizophrenics. Psychosocial stressors appear to be of limited importance in this context, while poor general functioning is associated with destructive ways of trying to solve conflicts between husband and wife. However, there have been no Scandinavian population-based studies to establish the frequency and type of violence used when trying to solve marital conflicts. Thus there is a need for such studies, and the present investigation supports the American experience that the Conflict Tactics Scale is a usable and easily administered instrument for population-based studies.