The Relationship between Attachment and Criminal Psychopathy: A systematic Review
Background: Psychopathy has been theoretically and clinically associated with pathologies of attachment. Cotemporary research on this theme, however, remains scarce.
Objectives: The aim of the present systematic review is to examine the relationship between attachment and criminal psychopathy amongst violent and sexually violent incarcerated offenders and forensic mental health patients.
Methods: Relevant databases (Psych Info, PubMed, Sage and Web of Science) were searched from 1980 to March 2019 to identify suitable studies for inclusion. The systemic review was carried out in line with ‘Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis’ (PRISMA) guidelines to ensure that bias is avoided and also to allow a rigorous and in-depth examination of the literature.
Results: Two studies were included in the review. The studies demonstrate that there is a high prevalence of traumatic childhood experiences, including various types of abuse and neglect amongst criminal psychopaths. It appears that attachment seems to be an important factor in understanding psychopathy.
Conclusion: Higher scores on psychopathy appear to be associated with abnormalities of attachment, such as disorganized, insecure- avoidant, and insecure –preoccupied attachment styles. Given the narrowness of the inclusion criteria, only two studies identified for inclusion. Future research should aim to explore further the relationship between attachment and psychopathy.