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Understanding perceptions of stalking: The impact of additional contextual information regarding the breakdown of relationships

Duff, S.C. and Scott, A.J.. 2013. Understanding perceptions of stalking: The impact of additional contextual information regarding the breakdown of relationships. Journal of Criminal Psychology, 3(2), pp. 136-144. ISSN 2009-3829 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Purpose
– Perception research has demonstrated that people view stranger stalkers to be more persistent and dangerous than ex‐partner stalkers. Although these findings are consistent with the outcome of legal processes where stranger stalkers are more likely to be convicted, they contrast with the findings of national surveys and applied research where ex‐partner stalkers represent the most persistent and dangerous relational subtype. The aim of the current study is to further examine the influence of prior relationship on perceptions of stalking by considering the impact of additional contextual information regarding the breakdown of ex‐partners’ relationships for the first time.

Design/methodology/approach
– In this vignette study 180 women were randomly assigned to one of seven conditions and asked to complete five 11‐point Likert scale items relating to another person's behaviour. The relationship between that person and themselves was manipulated across the seven conditions so that the person was described as either a stranger, an acquaintance, an ex‐partner or an ex‐partner with additional contextual information regarding the breakdown of the relationship.

Findings
– Participants were less likely to perceive behaviour as stalking or as requiring police intervention, and were more likely to perceive themselves as responsible, when the other person was portrayed as an ex‐partner rather than a stranger. However, perceptions of ex‐partners differed considerably when contextual information regarding the breakdown of the relationship was provided.

Practical implications
– The findings have important implications for victims of stalking and the legal system. Examining the influence of prior relationship on perceptions of stalking when additional contextual information is provided can be used to better inform potential victims so as to reduce the risk of serious harm. Additionally, the influence this information has on perceptions of ex‐partner stalkers may have implications for how the legal system understands and deals with ex‐partner stalking cases.

Social implications
– The findings have important implications for victims of stalking and the legal system. Examining the influence of prior relationship on perceptions of stalking when additional contextual information is provided can be used to better inform potential victims so as to reduce the risk of serious harm. Additionally, the influence this information has on perceptions of ex‐partner stalkers may have implications for how the legal system understands and deals with ex‐partner stalking cases.

Originality/value
– Previous research has demonstrated that perceptions of stalking are influenced by the prior relationship between the stalker and the victim. This has implications for the conviction of stalkers and intervention for stalkers and victims. This research demonstrates that with limited contextual information outlining the reason for relationship breakdown the perceptions of stalking change. This finding may be of value to individuals who do not recognise they are at risk and to the legal system.

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.1108/JCP-09-2012-0005

Keywords:

Perceptions, Prior relationship, Relationship breakdown, Stalking

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Psychology > Forensic Psychology Unit

Dates:

DateEvent
8 January 2013Accepted
2013Published

Item ID:

20422

Date Deposited:

18 May 2017 15:00

Last Modified:

18 May 2017 15:00

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/20422

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