Intimate Partner Stalking: Comparing the Danger Posed by Partner Stalkers Versus Non-Partner Stalkers

This Web page is based on Research on Partner Stalking: Putting the Pieces Together (pdf, 27 pages), prepared by T.K. Logan for NIJ.

On this page, find:

Overview of Differences between Partner and Non-Partner Stalkers

When examining dangerousness and characteristics of partner stalking, it is important to compare differences between partner stalkers and non-partner stalkers such as acquaintances and strangers.

In one study, researchers summarize the difference between intimate partner stalkers and non-intimate partner stalkers:

[Intimate stalkers compared with non-intimate stalkers] are by far the most malignant. They have violent criminal records, abuse stimulants and/or alcohol, but are rarely psychotic. They frequently approach their targets and escalate in frequency and and intensity of pursuit. They insult, interfere, threaten and are violent. Over one-half of these subjects will physically assault their object of pursuit...Virtually all of them reoffend, and they do so more quickly than the other two groups [acquaintance and stranger stalkers]. Almost one out of three will threaten with or use a weapon. [1]

Threat of Violence

Partner stalkers are more threatening and more violent than non-partner stalkers. This has consistently been found in a number of studies using a variety of methodologies.

  • Partner stalkers are more threatening toward their victims. [2-5] They are also more likely to follow through on those threats. For example, researchers found that 71 percent of partner stalking victims were assaulted after being threatened while that number was 33 percent for non-intimate partner stalking victims who were threatened. [6]
  • Partner stalkers are more likely to assault their victim. [7-14]
  • Partner stalkers are more likely to assault third parties. [15]
  • Partner stalkers are more likely to threaten victim property and actually damage victim property than non-partner stalkers. [16][17]

Impact of Court Intervention

Another feature of stalking to examine is how responsive the stalker is to various interventions, especially court interventions. Partner stalkers are more likely to reoffend after a court intervention and reoffend more quickly than non-partner stalkers. [18][19]

Features of Stalking

In addition to threats and violence, partner stalkers appear to engage in stalking behavior more frequently and intensely than non-partner stalkers.

  • Partner stalkers contact and approach their victims more frequently. [20][21]
  • Partner stalkers are more insulting and interfering/intrusive in the victim's life. [22][23]
  • Partner stalkers use the widest range of stalking tactics compared to non-partner stalkers. [24-26]
    • Having a prior history of intimacy may provide the stalker with a wider array of tactics to employ during the stalking. [27-31]
    • There are several reasons partner stalkers use a wider range of tactics including: (1) many boundaries have already been crossed in the relationship making approach tactics more likely and potentially more threatening, [32] and (2) partner stalkers may know their partners' greatest weaknesses, concerns, fears and secrets as well as details about their work, friends, family, customary routines, and hangouts. [33-36]
  • Partner stalkers escalate in frequency and intensity of pursuit more often than non-partner stalkers. [37]
  • Partner stalkers are more persistent than non-partner stalkers. [38] For example, researchers have found partner stalking victims to be stalked an average of 2.2 years; twice as long as non-intimate partner stalking victims who had an average stalking duration of 1.1 years. [39]

Characteristics of Stalkers

Understanding what characteristics differentiate partner stalkers from other stalkers is important.

In general, the research is inconsistent or lacking in the understanding of characteristics that differentiate partner stalkers from non-partner stalking including criminal history, substance abuse, personality disorders, and delusional/psychotic disorders. [40-42]  However, some research is converging to suggest partner stalkers are more violent but less likely to be psychotic. [43-45]


[note 1][note 3][note 10][note 18][20][note 22][29][note 37][note 45] Mohandie, K., J. Meloy, M. McGowan and J. Williams, "The RECON Typology of Stalking: Reliability and Validity Based upon a Large Sample of North American Stalkers," Journal of Forensic Science 51(1) (2006): 147-155.

[note 2] Kamphuis, J., and P. Emmelkamp, "Traumatic Distress Among Support-seeking Female Victims of Stalking," American Journal of Psychiatry 158(5) (2001): 795-798.

[note 4][note 11][note 21][note 32][note 36] Palarea, R., M. Zona, J. Lane and J. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, "The Dangerous Nature of Intimate Relationship Stalking: Threats, Violence and Associated Risk Factors," Behavioral Sciences and the Law 17 (1999): 269-283.

[note 5][14][note 15][note 23][note 26][note 31] Sheridan, L., and G. Davies, "Violence and the Prior Victim-Stalker Relationship," Criminal Behavior and Mental Health 11 (2001): 102-116.

[note 6] Thomas, S., R. Purcell, M. Pathé and P. Mullen, "Harm Associated with Stalking Victimization," Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 42 (2008): 800-806.

[note 7][note 43] Farnham, F., D. James and P. Cantrell, "Association between Violence, Psychosis, and Relationship to Victim in Stalkers," The Lancet 355 (2000): 199.

[note 8] James, D., and F. Farnham, "Stalking and Serious Violence," Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 31 (2003): 432-439.

[note 9][note 38][note 41] McEwan, T., P. Mullen and R. Purcell, "Identifying Risk Factors in Stalking: A Review of Current Research," International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 30 (2007): 1-9.

[note 12] Rosenfeld, B., and R. Harmon, "Factors Associated with Violence in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment Cases," Criminal Justice and Behavior 29(6) (2002): 671-691.

[note 13][note 17][note 42] Rosenfeld, B., "Violence Risk Factors in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment: A Review and Preliminary Meta-analysis," Criminal Justice and Behavior 31(1) (2004): 9-36.

[note 16] Coleman, F., "Stalking Behavior and the Cycle of Domestic Violence," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 12(3) (1997): 420-432.

[note 19] Rosenfeld, B., "Recidivism in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment," Law and Human Behavior 27(3) (2003): 251-265.

[note 24] Johnson, M., and G. Kercher, "Identifying Predictors of Negative Psychological Reactions to Stalking Victimization," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 24(5) (2009): 886-882.

[note 25] Nicastro, A., A. Cousins and B. Spitzberg, "The Tactical Face of Stalking," Journal of Criminal Justice 28 (2000): 69-82.

[note 27][note 35] Logan, T., J. Cole, L. Shannon and R. Walker, Partner Stalking: How Women Respond, Cope, and Survive, New York: Springer Publishing, 2006.

[note 28][note 34] Logan, T., and R. Walker, "Partner Stalking: Psychological Dominance or Business as Usual?" Trauma, Violence, and Abuse 10(3) (2009): 247-270.

[note 30] Mullen, P., M. Pathé and R. Purcell, Stalkers and Their Victims, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

[note 33] Emerson, R., K. Ferris and C. Gardner, "On Being Stalked," Social Problems 45(3) (1998): 289-314.

[note 39] Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes, "Stalking in America: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey," Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998, NCJ 169592.

[note 40] Douglas, K., and D. Dutton, "Assessing the Link between Stalking and Domestic Violence," Aggression and Violent Behavior 6 (2001): 519-546.

[note 44] Kienlen, K., D. Birmingham, K. Solberg, J. O'Regan and J. Meloy, "A Comparative Study of Psychotic and Nonpsychotic Stalking," Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 25(3) (1997): 317-334.

Date Created: April 20, 2012