Recidivism in stalking and obsessional harassment

Law Hum Behav. 2003 Jun;27(3):251-65. doi: 10.1023/a:1023479706822.


Despite the rapidly growth of mental health attention focused on the phenomenon of stalking, no empirical research to date has attempted to assess the frequency of repeat offending or attempted to identify predictors of recidivism. A total of 148 stalking and harassment offenders who were court-ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation were followed for a period of 2.5-13 years in order to assess the frequency of repeat offenses and the variables that differentiated high versus low risk offenders. Recidivism data were obtained from a variety of sources, including criminal justice records, mental health records, and reports from probation officers and victims. A number of potential "predictor" variables were selected on the basis of the existing recidivism literature in other criminal justice populations. Frequency analysis were used to identify variables that significantly differentiated offenders who did and did not reoffened while survival analysis was used to analyze the impact of these covariates on time to reoffense. A total of 49% of the offenders reoffended during the follow-up period, 80% of whom reoffended during the first year. The strongest predictors of recidivism included the presence of a personality disorder, and in particular, a "Cluster B" personality disorder (i.e., antisocial, borderline, and/or narcissistic). In addition, those offenders with both a personality disorder and a history of substance abuse were significantly more likely to reoffened compared to either of these risk factors alone. Surprisingly, the presence of a delusional disorder (e.g., erotomania) was associated with a lower risk of reoffender. The findings are discussed in terms of the legal system and treatment implications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obsessive Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Obsessive Behavior / psychology*
  • Recurrence
  • Sexual Harassment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data*