Sex Roles

, Volume 76, Issue 1–2, pp 56–72 | Cite as

The Frequency and Perceived Impact of Engaging in In-Person and Cyber Unwanted Pursuit after Relationship Break-Up among College Men and Women

  • Christina M. DardisEmail author
  • Christine A. Gidycz
Original Article


The present study examined the extent of cyber and in-person unwanted pursuit behaviors (UPBs) reported by undergraduate men and women who pursued former partners and the pursuer’s perceptions of the impact of their pursuit on their targets. Among a sample of 1167 undergraduates (66.8 % women; 95.4 % heterosexual) approximately 80 % of men and women reported engaging in UPBs toward former partners, with cyber pursuit endorsed by a subset of those who engaged in in-person UPBs. Despite few gender differences in overall pursuit, men endorsed engaging in a number of specific behaviors more than did women. Most UPBs did receive responses from targets, and pursuers generally did not perceive their behaviors as annoying, threatening, or frightening. Women perceived that targets had more negative responses to UPBs, particularly to threatening or violent pursuit, and men perceived more positive or neutral responses overall. Minor UPBs were associated with relationship reconciliation among women and men, whereas severe UPBs were associated with reconciliation among men only. Results suggest that pursuers likely underestimate the impact of their behaviors on targets and that pursuers’ efforts, even severe and threatening, are often reinforced, particularly for men who pursue. Universities must be aware of UPBs and provide prevention programs specific to healthy relationship dissolution and pursuit. Provision of corrective information regarding the impact of severe and threatening pursuit may assist in reducing these behaviors.


Relationship termination Stalking Unwanted pursuit behaviors Pursuers Partner abuse Technology 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

The manuscript represents original and valid work and neither this manuscript nor one with similar content under my authorship has been published or is being considered for publication elsewhere. There are no funding sources to report for the present manuscript. To the best of our knowledge, no conflict of interest, financial or other, exists. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the university in which it was conducted prior to data collection. Informed consent was presented prior to the study, and participants were provided options for partial course credit in the place of research participation (i.e., brief article reviews), if desired. Debriefing materials were provided at the end of the study. No animals were involved in the present study.

Supplementary material

11199_2016_667_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
ESM 1 Online Supplement 1 (DOCX 29 kb)
11199_2016_667_MOESM2_ESM.docx (29 kb)
ESM 2 Online Supplement 2 (DOCX 29 kb)


  1. Baum, K., Catalano, S., & Rand, M. (2009). Stalking victimization in the United States. Retrieved from National Criminal Justice Reference Service website:
  2. Berkowitz, A. D. (2010). Fostering healthy norms to prevent violence and abuse: The social norms approach. In K. L. Kaufman (Ed.), The prevention of sexual violence: A practitioner’s sourcebook (pp. 147–171). Holyoke: NEARI Press.Google Scholar
  3. Burke, S. C., Wallen, M., Vail-Smith, K., & Knox, D. (2011). Using technology to control intimate partners: An exploratory study of college undergraduates. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 1162–1167. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chaulk, K., & Jones, T. (2011). Online obsessive relational intrusion: Further concerns about Facebook. Journal of Family Violence, 26, 245–254. doi: 10.1077/s10896-011-9360-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Citron, D. K., & Franks, M. A. (2014). Criminalizing revenge porn. Wake Forest Law Review, 49, 345–391.Google Scholar
  6. Cupach, W. R., & Spitzberg, B. H. (2004). The dark side of relationship pursuit: From attraction to obsession and stalking. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  7. Cupach, W. R., Spitzberg, B. H., Bolingbroke, C. M., & Tellitocci, B. S. (2011). Persistence of attempts to reconcile a terminated romantic relationship: A partial test of relational goal pursuit theory. Communication Reports, 24(2), 99–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davis, K. E., Ace, A., & Andra, M. (2000). Stalking pursuers and psychological maltreatment of partners: Anger-jealousy, attachment insecurity, need for control, and break-up context. Violence and Victims, 15, 407–425.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. De Smet, O., Buysse, A., & Brondeel, R. (2011). Effect of the breakup context on unwanted pursuit behavior perpetration between former partners. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 56, 934–941. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01745.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. De Smet, O., Uzieblo, K., Loeys, T., Buysse, A., & Onraedt, T. (2015). Unwanted pursuit behavior after breakup: Occurrence, risk factors, and gender differences. Journal of Family Violence, 30, 753–767. doi: 10.1007/s10896-015-9687-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunlap, E. E., Hodell, E. C., Golding, J. M., & Wasarhaley, N. E. (2012). Mock jurors’ perception of stalking: The impact of gender and expressed fear. Sex Roles, 66(5–6), 405–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dutton, L. B., & Winstead, B. A. (2006). Predicting unwanted pursuit: Attachment, relationship satisfaction, relationship alternatives, and break-up distress. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23, 565–586. doi: 10.1177/0265407506065984.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dutton, L. B., & Winstead, B. A. (2011). Types, frequency, and effectiveness of responses to unwanted pursuit and stalking. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 1129–1156. doi: 10.1177/0886260510368153.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Dye, M. L., & Davis, K. E. (2003). Stalking and psychological abuse: Common factors and relationship-specific characteristics. Violence and Victims, 18, 163–180.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Fisher, B. S., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (1999). The extent and nature of the sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  16. Foshee, V. A., Linder, G. F., Bauman, K. E., Langwick, S. A., Arriaga, X. B., Heath, J. L., et al. (1996). The safe dates project: Theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 12(5 Suppl), S39–S47.Google Scholar
  17. Kamphuis, J. H., Emmelkamp, P. M., & Bartak, A. (2003). Individual differences in post-traumatic stress following post-intimate stalking: Stalking severity and psychosocial variables. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 145–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J. (2012). Gender and stalking: Current intersections and future directions. Sex Roles, 66(5–6), 418–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., & Palarea, R. (2006). Unwanted pursuit behavior inventory – offender. In M. P. Thompson, K. C. Basile, M. F. Hertz, & D. Sitterle (Eds.), Measuring intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization: A compendium of assessment tools (1st ed., pp. 148–149). Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.Google Scholar
  20. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Palarea, R. E., Cohen, J., & Rohling, M. L. (2000). Breaking up is hard to do: Unwanted pursuit behaviors following the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Violence and Victims, 15, 73–90. doi: 10.1177/0886260504268602.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lippman, J. R. (2016). I did it because I never stopped loving you: The effects of media portrayals of persistent pursuit on beliefs about stalking. Communication Research. doi: 10.1177/0093650215570653.Google Scholar
  22. Lyndon, A., Bonds-Raacke, J., & Cratty, A. D. (2011). College students’ Facebook stalking of ex-partners. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14, 711–716. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0588.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Moynihan, M. M., Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Eckstein, R. P. (2010). Bringing in the bystander: Establishing a community of responsibility (Facilitator’s guide). Durham: University of New Hampshire.Google Scholar
  24. Nguyen, L. K., Spitzberg, B. H., & Lee, C. M. (2012). Coping with obsessive relational intrusion and stalking: The role of social support and coping strategies. Violence and Victims, 27, 414–433.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Nobles, M. R., Reyns, B. W., Fox, K. A., & Fisher, B. S. (2014). Protection against pursuit: A conceptual and empirical comparison of cyberstalking and stalking victimization among a national sample. Justice Quarterly, 31(6), 986–1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ravensberg, V., & Miller, C. (2003). Stalking among young adults: A review of the preliminary research. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8, 455–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sheridan, L., & Davies, G. M. (2001). Violence and the prior target–stalker relationship. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 11(2), 102–116.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Sheridan, L. P., & Grant, T. (2007). Is cyberstalking different? Psychology Crime and Law, 13, 627–640. doi: 10.1080/10683160701340528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sinclair, H. C., & Frieze, I. H. (2005). When courtship persistence becomes intrusive pursuit: Comparing rejecter and pursuer perspectives of unrequited attention. Sex Roles, 52, 839–852. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-4203-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Spitzberg, B. H., & Cupach, W. R. (2003). What mad pursuit?: Obsessive relational intrusion and stalking related phenomena. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8(4), 345–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Spitzberg, B. H., & Hoobler, G. D. (2002). Cyberstalking and the technologies of interpersonal terrorism. New Media & Society, 4, 71–92. doi: 10.1177/14614440222226271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Spitzberg, B. H., Cupach, W. R., & Ciceraro, L. D. (2010). Sex differences in stalking and obsessive relational intrusion: Two meta-analyses. Partner Abuse, 1(3), 259–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spitzberg, B. H., Cupach, W. R., Hannawa, A. F., & Crowley, J. P. (2014). A preliminary test of a relational goal pursuit theory of obsessive relational intrusion and stalking. Studies in Communication Sciences, 14(1), 29–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sprecher, S. (1994). Two sides to the breakup of dating relationships. Personal Relationships, 1(3), 199–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stark, E. (2007). Coercive control: How men entrap women in personal life. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Strawhun, J., Adams, N., & Huss, M. T. (2013). The assessment of cyberstalking: An expanded examination including social networking, attachment, jealousy, and anger in relation to violence and abuse. Violence and Targets, 28(4), 715–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tassy, F., & Winstead, B. (2014). Relationship and individual characteristics as predictors of unwanted pursuit. Family Violence, 29(2), 187–195. doi: 10.1007/s10896-013-9573-2.
  38. Thompson, C. M., Dennison, S. M., & Stewart, A. (2012). Are female stalkers more violent than male stalkers? Understanding gender differences in stalking violence using contemporary sociocultural beliefs. Sex Roles, 66(5–6), 351–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Stalking in America: Findings from the national violence against women survey. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCJ 169592).Google Scholar
  40. Williams, S. L., & Frieze, I. H. (2005). Courtship behaviors, relationship violence, and breakup persistence in college men and women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29(3), 248–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wisternoff, M. (2008). Unwanted pursuit and stalking following intimate relationship dissolution (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Canterbury, Canterbury, New Zealand.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Center for PTSDVA Boston Healthcare SystemBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyOhio UniversityAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations