In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Stalking and Harassment

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Defining and Measuring Stalking and Harassment
  • Prevalence
  • Victimization
  • Perpetration and Offender Typologies
  • Theoretical Perspectives from Criminology and Victimology
  • Cyberstalking and Online Harassment Victimization and Perpetration
  • Harmful Consequences of Stalking and Harassment Victimization
  • Overlap with Other Forms of Victimization
  • Victim Acknowledgment, Reporting, and Help-Seeking
  • Criminal Justice Responses

Criminology Stalking and Harassment
Bradford W. Reyns
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0144


Stalking has been referred to as the crime of the 1990s. In part, this is because California enacted the first state stalking legislation in 1990, the National Institute of Justice developed the model anti-stalking code in 1993, and the federal government criminalized interstate stalking in 1996. In a relatively short period of time, all fifty US states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government had passed stalking laws. So too, many countries around the world such as The Netherlands, Australia, and Canada have recognized stalking as a criminal offense. This also is the time when stalking research began in earnest, and in subsequent years stalking has been the subject of hundreds of scholarly articles. Although stalking is a relatively young crime in a legal sense, stalking behaviors such as threats and unwanted contact have a long history. Prior to the passage of stalking legislation in the 1990s, these behaviors were simply labeled as harassment. Stalking and harassment are related behaviors with important distinctions. In particular, stalking behaviors are a form of harassment, but harassment does not necessarily constitute stalking. Defining, measuring, and distinguishing between these behaviors has emerged as one of the key issues in the stalking literature. Other important areas of research inquiry include examining the prevalence, victims, offenders, theoretical explanations, consequences, and responses to stalking and harassment. Given the breadth of issues related to stalking, the research that has been undertaken has been interdisciplinary, but informed mostly by those working in the fields of criminology, victimology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, and law.

General Overviews

For the most part, sources of general information on stalking can be placed in one of two categories: (1) those works that review the current state of research on a range of topics, such as prevalence and victimization; and (2) those studies that utilize meta-analyses to empirically synthesize what is known about a few specific issues. Among the former, Davis, et al. 2002 provides a relatively early edited volume that is a good starting point for those interested in learning about the nature of stalking from a psychological perspective. Similarly, the text by Mullen, et al. 2008 presents a summary of stalking based in research from the field of psychiatry. Several articles also review the current state of the stalking literature within different academic frameworks, and are more appropriate for those needing a shorter review or critique on the topic. The Sheridan, et al. 2003 article summarizes the stalking literature from a psychological standpoint; the Sinwelski and Vinton 2001 article approaches the topic from a social work perspective; and the Stewart and Fisher 2013 chapter reviews the literature in the context of the fields of criminology and victimology. Tjaden 2009 takes more of a policy-based or legal approach to discussing stalking. In the latter category, two meta-analyses by Spitzberg combine results from large bodies of empirical stalking research to identify patterns in study results. These articles are most appropriate for those interested in stalking statistics and estimates of associated phenomena, such as prevalence estimates found in the Spitzberg and Cupach 2007 article or differences in stalking estimates across genders reported in the Spitzberg, et al. 2010 study.

  • Davis, Keith E., Irene Hanson Frieze, and Roland D. Maiuro, eds. 2002. Stalking: Perspectives on victims and perpetrators. New York: Springer.

    This edited volume contains sixteen entries addressing the state of stalking research as of 2002. Divided into three parts—victimization issues, perpetrator issues, and an overview—the text is now somewhat dated but still remains a valuable starting point for students, scholars, and others seeking general information about stalking.

  • Mullen, Paul E., Michele Pathé, and Rosemary Purcell. 2008. Stalkers and their victims. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511544088

    Comprehensive coverage of general and special issues in stalking research from a psychiatric perspective. Noteworthy contributions of this book include chapters on types of stalkers (e.g., predatory stalkers, resentful stalkers), domains of stalking (e.g., in the workplace), and specific types of victims (e.g., celebrities, health professionals).

  • Sheridan, Lorraine P., Eric Blaauw, and Graham M. Davies. 2003. Stalking: Knowns and unknowns. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse 4:148–162.

    DOI: 10.1177/1524838002250766

    An overview of the international stalking research literature through 2003. Reviews such issues as: defining stalking, its nature and prevalence, its consequences, characteristics of victims and offenders, and preventing stalking.

  • Sinwelski, Shari A., and Linda Vinton. 2001. Stalking: The constant threat of violence. Affilia 16:46–65.

    DOI: 10.1177/08861090122094136

    Discusses stalking from legal and policy perspectives. Focuses on the history of the criminalization of stalking, the nature of stalking behaviors, characteristics of stalkers, victims’ responses to and perceptions of stalking, its effects, and victim help-seeking.

  • Spitzberg, Brian H., and William R. Cupach. 2007. The state of the art of stalking: Taking stock of the emerging literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior 12:64–86.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2006.05.001

    A comprehensive review of the empirical stalking research literature. Synthesizes 175 published studies of stalking and provides estimates of its extent and nature, particularly related to stalker motivation, stalker typologies, stalking behaviors, explaining stalking, and effects on victims.

  • Spitzberg, Brian H., William R. Cupach, and Lea D. L. Ciceraro. 2010. Sex differences in stalking and obsessive relational intrusion: Two meta-analyses. Partner Abuse 1:259–285.

    DOI: 10.1891/1946-6560.1.3.259

    Includes meta-analyses of two collections of stalking studies to identify gender differences in stalking with an emphasis on prevalence, labeling pursuit as stalking, and the characteristics of the event.

  • Stewart, Megan C., and Bonnie S. Fisher. 2013. Vulnerabilities and opportunities 101: The extent, nature, and impact of stalking and cyberstalking among college students and implications for campus policies and programs. In Campus crime: Legal, social, and policy perspectives. 3d ed. Edited by Bonnie S. Fisher and John J. Sloan III, 236–260. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

    Provides a review of important issues related to stalking with a particular focus on stalking among college students—both by and against—and opportunities for stalking. The chapter discusses these issues as they relate to college campus settings and students’ daily routine activities. Also reviews the extent and nature of stalking victimization and perpetration among college students.

  • Tjaden, Patricia. 2009. Stalking policies and research in the United States: A twenty year retrospective. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 15:261–278.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10610-009-9100-4

    Provides a summary of the stalking literature related to two areas: stalking policies and stalking research. Coverage of the former addresses the development and current state of stalking laws, definitional issues, the model stalking code, and implementation of laws in the United States. Tjaden’s discussion of the latter reviews the prevalence and effects of stalking, as well as the characteristics of victims, offenders, and their relationships.

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