Individual differences in post-traumatic stress following post-intimate stalking: stalking severity and psychosocial variables

Br J Clin Psychol. 2003 Jun;42(Pt 2):145-56. doi: 10.1348/014466503321903562.


Objective: Stalking can have a major psychosocial impact on its victims. Accumulating evidence suggests frequent post-traumatic stress (PTS) reactions. The present study aimed to detail the affective and cognitive responses following post-intimate stalking, and to assess the associations between stalking severity, person-related psychosocial variables and symptoms of PTS.

Design: Female members (N = 131) of a Dutch nation-wide support group were contacted by mail and completed questionnaires pertaining to their stalking history, Big Five personality traits, coping, social support, as well as PTS reactions and symptoms.

Method: The Traumatic Constellation Identification Scale was used to elucidate emotional and cognitive responses to post-intimate stalking. To assess the associations between stalking severity indices, person-related psychosocial variables and PTS, a regression analysis was conducted using the Impact of Events Scale as a dependent variable.

Results: Affective reactions included affective liability, fear, shame and loss. Associated maladaptive beliefs included decreased trust, increased alienation and isolation, and attributions of self-blame. Indices of stalking severity accounted for 22% of the PTS variance, with stalking violence being the most potent predictor. Another 8% of PTS variance was associated with a passive coping reaction and (lower) openness to experience.

Conclusion: PTS following stalking was associated with both stressor-related and person-related variables. Risk factors for PTS included severe stalking including violence and passive coping. Prolonged post-intimate stalking may lead to personality adaptation (i.e. becoming more closed, cautious and reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*