Psychopathy, antisocial personality, and suicide risk

J Abnorm Psychol. 2001 Aug;110(3):462-70. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.110.3.462.


H. Cleckley (1976) maintained that psychopaths are relatively immune to suicide, but substantial evidence exists for a relationship between antisocial deviance and suicidal acts. This study was the first to explicitly examine suicidal history among psychopathic individuals as defined by R. D. Hare's (1991) Psychopathy Checklist--Revised (PCL-R). Male prison inmates (N = 313) were assessed using the PCL-R and DSM-III-R and DSM-IV criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 1987, 1994) for antisocial personality disorder (APD), and they completed A. Tellegen's (1982) Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ). Presence or absence of prior suicide attempts was coded from structured interview and prison file records. Suicide history was significantly related to PCL-R Factor 2 (which reflects chronic antisocial deviance) and to APD diagnosis but was unrelated to PCL-R Factor 1, which encompasses affective and interpersonal features of psychopathy. Higher order MPQ dimensions of Negative Emotionality and low Constraint were found to account for the relationship between history of suicidal attempts and antisocial deviance, indicating that temperament traits may represent a common vulnerability for both.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Florida / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prisons
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychopathology
  • Sampling Studies
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Temperament*