Prospective longitudinal studies have shown strong predictions from conduct disorders (CDs) in childhood to antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and violence in adults. However, little is known of the childhood antecedents of serious violence nor whether these may vary depending on the context in which the violence occurs. In this study, 54 men aged 21-40 years serving prison sentences for violent crime were assessed. Standardized interviews of ASPD and violence were conducted independently of interviews covering retrospective recall of childhood psychiatric disorders and adverse experiences. Analyses of the predictors of overall violence suggested a pathway involving childhood CD and adult ASPD associated with interparental discord, and an additional pathway associated with experiencing interparental violence in childhood. Different results were however obtained when account was taken of the context of the violence. The CD-ASPD pathway was associated with social violence, but not with partner violence. Partner violence was predicted by retrospective reports of having been exposed to interparental violence during childhood but not by reports of childhood CD or adult ASPD. Thus developmental pathways to serious violence may be different depending on the social domain in which the violence occurs. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.