Defining Relational Stalking in Research: Understanding Sample Composition in Relation to Repetition and Duration of Harassment
Psychiatry, Psychology and Law
Due to ambiguities in stalking laws and the concept of stalking more generally, it is difficult for researchers to operationalise stalking for the purpose of selecting samples of perpetrators or victims. In an attempt to develop an empirical basis for operationalising relational stalking, this study examined unwanted intrusions in a community and student sample. Participants (N = 1738) completed a questionnaire assessing the repetition and duration of their unwanted intrusive behaviour
... the termination of a relationship or pursuit of a romantic relationship. The consequences of applying different cut-points of repetition and duration of harassment was examined in relation to the proportion of participants who self-reported intent to frighten, intimidate or harm the target, perceived target fear or harm and the use of violence and/or threats. Engaging in some form of unwanted pursuit was almost normative (75% of the sample). However, when higher levels of repetition were used to define stalking, the sample comprised participants who reported engaging in more serious forms of intrusive behaviour. Applying different cut-points of duration appeared to have less of an effect on sample composition than did repetition. Criteria that may help to capture more serious forms of stalking behaviour, as opposed to normative behaviour, are discussed.