The Assessment of Cyberstalking: An Expanded Examination Including Social Networking, Attachment, Jealousy, and Anger in Relation to Violence and Abuse

By Strawhun, Jenna; Adams, Natasha et al. | Violence and Victims, August 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Assessment of Cyberstalking: An Expanded Examination Including Social Networking, Attachment, Jealousy, and Anger in Relation to Violence and Abuse


Strawhun, Jenna, Adams, Natasha, Huss, Matthew T., Violence and Victims


Because the first antistalking statute was enacted in California in 1990, stalking research has been expanded immensely, yet been largely confined to exploring traditional pur- suit tactics. This study instead examined the prevalence and correlates of cyberstalking behaviors while examining the phenomenon in a more inclusive manner than previous studies focusing on cyberstalking by including social networking avenues. In addition to a measure assessing cyberstalking-related behaviors, questionnaires assessing pathological aspects of personality, including attachment style, interpersonal jealousy, interpersonal violence, and anger were also provided to participants. Results indicate that, given prelimi- nary evidence, cyberstalking-related behaviors are related to past measures of traditional stalking and cyberstalking, although prior attachment, jealousy, and violence issues within relationships are significant predictors of cyberstalking-related behaviors. In addition, unexpected gender differences emerged. For example, women admitted greater frequen- cies of cyberstalking perpetration than males, signaling that further research on frequency and motivation for cyberstalking among the sexes is necessary.

Keywords: aggression; jealousy; dating violence; online victimization; stalking

The act of stalking has conventionally been associated with surveillance or infatu- ated behavior, but more recently the literature has examined the pathological aspects present within these interpersonal relationships. Scholars have although attempted to deconstruct the broad scope of stalking activities so as to combat potential threats (Davis & Chipman, 2001). Although the effort to investigate psychological moti- vations behind traditional stalking has increased, the development of cyberstalking has made it even more difficult for researchers and policy makers to detect these troubled perpetrators. Concurrently, the term cyberstalking has been used to refer to repeated threats or harassment through electronic mail or other computer-based communication that make a reasonable person fear for his or her safety (Finn, 2004). Research sug- gests that as low as five, but as high as 30% of people have been cyberstalked (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004). Cyberstalking not only provides more rapid methods of choosing and identifying victims but also has created more subtle ways of constantly terrorizing individuals of all ages, races, genders, faiths, and sexual orientations (Alexy, Burgess, Baker, & Smoyak, 2005).

Although cyberstalking is a relatively recent and under researched phenomenon, traditional stalking has been the focus of considerable attention since the 1990s (Davis & Chipman, 2001). As many as 10%-23% of the general population has indicated they have been victims of stalking (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004). Furthermore, in the largest national study conducted on stalking thus far, administered by Baum, Catalano, Rand, and Rose (2009), it was determined that three out of four stalking victims were familiar with their offenders in some capacity. Still, stalking online or offline cannot be merely defined with one action or through a single study. Stalkers often perform a collection of routine, mundane behaviors such as calling, delivering notes, or sending instant messages which in themselves are not illegal, but that still ultimately aim to control their victims, making it difficult to build cases against them (Goodno, 2007; Sheridan & Davies, 2001). Cupach and Spitzberg (2007) define these behaviors as intentional, patterned and repeated behav- iors toward a person or persons that are unwanted. Additionally, these behaviors cause fear or harm that a typically developing person would categorize as threatening. Cyberstalking is consistent with this definition but focuses on these behaviors on the Internet where they can be performed more easily by the perpetrator.

At the same time that stalking has been recognized as an area of interest, the Internet age has been progressing to a level where intimate relations can be established with the click of a mouse. …

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