Is there a link between psychopathy and self-harm?

A review of the literature


  • Lisa Campbell School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham
  • Anthony Beech School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham



Psychopathy, Psychopaths, Self-harm, Self-injury, Literature review, Systematic review


The aim of this review was to examine whether there is a link between psychopathy and self-harm.  A systematic search identified 14 papers which examine this link. A quality appraisal checklist was used to evaluate the quality of each study. The application of the quality appraisal checklist showed that the majority of the studies had good internal validity; however, there were some biases that affected the external validity of some studies. The results indicated that there may be a positive association between total psychopathy score and self-harm; however some studies with smaller sample sizes and low rates of self-harm failed to show this association. The results of most of the studies showed a positive association between Factor 2 of the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R; Hare, 2003) and self-harm. No link was found between Factor 1 and self-harm. The results did not show consistent evidence for a link between any of the four facets and self-harm. Although this review indicates a link between Factor 2 and self-harm, and a possible link between total psychopathy score and self-harm, the small number of studies in this area means that the research is not robust enough to provide strong evidence for these associations.


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How to Cite

Campbell, L., & Beech, A. (2018). Is there a link between psychopathy and self-harm? A review of the literature. International Journal of Risk and Recovery, 1(2), 4–15.