Suicide Ideation Among Male Prisoners: Preliminary Evidence That Psychopathic Traits are Indirectly Linked to Suicide Ideation Through Thwarted Interpersonal Needs [2020]

The relation between psychopathic traits and suicide ideation (SI) is frequently discussed but little research has examined potential mechanisms underlying this association. The interpersonal theory of suicide (ITS) proposes two mechanisms in the pathogenesis of suicidal desire: thwarted belongingness (TB) and perceived burdensomeness (PB). This study cross‐sectionally tested TB and PB as possible explanatory links in the relation between psychopathic traits and SI.

Archival data from 784 male U.K. prisoners (Mage = 37.21, SD = 9.97) were analyzed using structural equation modeling.

Psychopathic traits were indirectly associated with SI through more specific suicide‐promoting processes – namely TB and PB. More specifically, results indicated that Egocentricity and Stimulus Seeking were indirectly associated with SI through PB and TB in combination. However, results indicated specific indirect effects of TB in the relations between the Antisocial Behavior, Egocentricity, and Stimulus Seeking facets, and SI, whereas specific indirect effects for PB were only significant in the relations between Egocentricity and Stimulus Seeking facets and SI.

Preliminary results are consistent with the ITS and suggest that psychopathic traits may be distal risk markers for SI and provide direction for future research that could inform suicide prevention efforts among male prisoners high in such traits.

Katie Dhingra PhD Sean M. Mitchell PhD Bill Davies PhD Michael D. Anestis PhD Joye C. Anestis PhD
Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Volume 50, Issue 4, August 2020