A study of women who stalk

Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Dec;158(12):2056-60. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.158.12.2056.


Objective: The authors examined whether female stalkers differ from their male counterparts in psychopathology, motivation, behavior, and propensity for violence.

Method: Female (N=40) and male (N=150) stalkers referred to a forensic mental health clinic were compared.

Results: In this cohort, female stalkers were outnumbered by male stalkers by approximately four to one. The demographic characteristics of the groups did not differ, although more male stalkers reported a history of criminal offenses. Higher rates of substance abuse were also noted among the male stalkers, but the psychiatric status of the groups did not otherwise differ. The duration of stalking and the frequency of associated violence were equivalent between groups. The nature of the prior relationship with the victim differed, with female stalkers more likely to target professional contacts and less likely to harass strangers. Female stalkers were also more likely than male stalkers to pursue victims of the same gender. The majority of female stalkers were motivated by the desire to establish intimacy with their victim, whereas men showed a broader range of motivations.

Conclusions: Female and male stalkers vary according to the motivation for their pursuit and their choice of victim. A female stalker typically seeks to attain a close intimacy with her victim, who usually is someone previously known and frequently is a person cast in the professional role of helper. While the contexts for stalking may differ by gender, the intrusiveness of the behaviors and potential for harm does not.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Referral and Consultation / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sexual Harassment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sexual Harassment / psychology*
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data
  • Victoria / epidemiology
  • Violence / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data