November 25, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Strauss Presents Poster on Stalking in College Student Dating Relationships: A Descriptive Investigation

Ohio University Psychology graduate student Catherine Strauss presented a poster on”Stalking in College Student Dating Relationships: A Descriptive Investigation” at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies annual convention Nov. 20-23 in Philadelphia.

Co-authors were Dr. Ryan Shorey, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ohio University, and Dr. Tara Cornelius of Grand Valley State University.

Abstract: An overwhelming body of evidence demonstrates the high incidence of dating violence among college students. Psychological and physical aggression occur particularly frequently, and thus these behaviors have long been explored empirically (Shorey et al., 2008). However, there has been little investigation of the prevalence of the violent behaviors that constitute stalking and cyberstalking, especially within the context of intact relationships. This dearth of knowledge may be a result of the lack of an agreed upon definition of stalking and cyberstalking. Researchers using legal definitions of stalking have historically found lower rates of victimization (approximately 8% of women and 2% of men; see Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), while those using broader definitions have found 26% and 10% of men and women, respectively, reported stalking (Cupach & Spitzberg, 2004), and 20% of men and women report cyberstalking (Amar, 2006). Further, most research in this area has focused on male stalking behavior, and have neglected stalking that may occur by females. Thus, the goal of the current study was to further investigate the prevalence and nature of stalking and cyberstalking within the context of intact dating relationships for both males and females, as well as its relationship to psychological and physical aggression.

Male and female undergraduate students (N = 650) from a large Midwestern university in a current dating relationship who were at least 18 years old participated in the study. The mean length of dating relationship was 16.62 months (SD=15.72) and the majority of the sample was Caucasian (89.1%). The psychological and physical aggression subscales of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales were used to measure dating violence perpetration and victimization (Straus et al., 2006). Because there is not agreed upon scale, 15 existing items utilized in other studies (i.e., Amar, 2006; Basile et al., 2006) were compiled to measure perpetration and victimization of stalking.

The results suggested that over 40% of participants endorsed items related to perpetration of stalking behaviors, including monitoring their partner’s behavior and/or activities, unwanted or repeated phone calls to their partners, attempting to gain information about their partners without their knowledge, and sent/left unwanted gifts for their partners. We also found that men and women generally did not differ in their reports of perpetration and victimization, with the exception of two items. Men reported leaving unwanted items for their partner to find more often and women reported significantly more monitoring of their partner’s behavior/activities by checking their social networking sites. Bivariate correlations between stalking and psychological and physical aggression indicated that there was a positive and significant association between the perpetration and victimization of all of the variables of interest for women. For men, all variables were also significant and positively related with the exception of stalking perpetration/victimization and physical aggression perpetration. Interpretations of these data and implications of these findings for prevention and intervention for stalking are addressed.

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