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).