Critically argue whether stalking and harassment emerge from distinct underlying processes or are different behavioural manifestations of the same underlying processes.
Stalking and harassment are two forms of unwanted and persistent attention that are prevalent in today’s society. While both behaviors share similarities, there is ongoing debate about whether they emerge from distinct underlying processes or are different behavioral manifestations of the same underlying processes. This paper aims to critically argue both sides of the debate by drawing on evidence and theory.
Section 1: Stalking and its underlying processes
Stalking is a form of intrusive behavior that is characterized by persistent and unwanted attention towards another person. It is considered a serious public health concern due to the potential for physical and psychological harm to the victim. Stalking behavior can include a range of actions, such as following the victim, sending unwanted gifts, making unwanted phone calls, and even threatening or violent behavior. It is estimated that one in six women and one in seventeen men will experience stalking at some point in their lives (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007).
One of the underlying processes associated with stalking is attachment theory. Attachment theory suggests that individuals who have a history of insecure attachment are more likely to develop stalking behavior (Mullen, Pathe, & Purcell, 2000). Insecure attachment refers to a style of interpersonal relating that is characterized by anxiety, fear of abandonment, and a tendency to seek intense and exclusive relationships (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2016). Individuals who have a history of insecure attachment may become overly dependent on their partners and may engage in stalking behavior as a means of maintaining the relationship or re-establishing it after a break-up.
Social learning theory is another underlying process associated with stalking behavior. Social learning theory suggests that individuals may learn stalking behavior through observing others or through reinforcement (Reyns, Henson, & Fisher, 2017). For example, an individual may observe stalking behavior in a family member or friend and learn that this behavior is acceptable. Alternatively, an individual may engage in stalking behavior and be rewarded with attention or affection from the victim, reinforcing the behavior.
Obsession is another underlying process associated with stalking behavior. Obsession is characterized by intrusive and repetitive thoughts or images that are difficult to control (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Individuals who experience obsessive thoughts or images about a particular person may become fixated on that person and engage in stalking behavior as a means of alleviating their distress (Meloy, 2002).
One study that supports the link between attachment theory and stalking behavior is the study by Davi
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Another study that supports the link between social learning theory and stalking behavior is the study by Sheridan, Blaauw, and Davies (2003). The study found that individuals who had experienced childhood abuse or witnessed domestic violence were more likely to engage in stalking behavior as adults. The authors suggest that these individuals may have learned stalking behavior through observing violence or aggression in their childhood environments.
Finally, research has shown that individuals who engage in stalking behavior often experience obsessive thoughts or images about their victims (Meloy, 2002). These thoughts or images can lead to a fixation on the victim, and stalking behavior may be used as a means of alleviating the distress associated with these obsessive thoughts.
In conclusion, stalking is a form of intrusive behavior that can cause significant harm to the victim. The underlying processes associated with stalking behavior include attachment theory, social learning theory, and obsession. Individuals who have a history of insecure attachment, who have learned stalking behavior through observation or reinforcement, or who experience obsessive thoughts or images may be more likely to engage in stalking behavior. Further research is needed to better understand the underlying processes associated with stalking behavior and to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies.
Section 2: Harassment and its underlying processes
Harassment, on the other hand, is defined as a behavior that is unwanted, unwelcome, and uninvited. It can take many forms, including verbal, physical, and sexual. Harassment can be a result of power imbalances, and it is often used as a tool for exerting control over others. The underlying processes associated with harassment include social dominance theory and gender socialization. Social dominance theory suggests that individuals who have a desire for power and status are more likely to engage in harassment behavior. Gender socialization, on the other hand, suggests that societal norms and expectations about gender can contribute to the development of harassment behavior, particularly towards women.
Section 3: The debate: distinct underlying processes or different behavioral manifestations?
While there are underlying processes associated with both stalking and harassment, the question remains whether they are distinct or whether they represent different manifestations of the same underlying processes. Some argue that stalking and harassment are distinct, as they involve different motivations, behaviors, and consequences. Stalking is often associated with a desire for intimacy or a need for control over the victim, whereas harassment is often motivated by a desire for power and dominance. Stalking is typically a long-term behavior, whereas harassment can be a one-time event or a series of events. Furthermore, the consequences of stalking and harassment can differ, with stalking often resulting in more severe psychological and physical harm to the victim.
Others argue that stalking and harassment are different manifestations of the same underlying processes. Both behaviors involve unwanted and persistent attention, and both can be motivated by a desire for power and control. Additionally, some argue that stalking and harassment can occur together, with individuals who engage in stalking also engaging in harassment behavior. This suggests that the two behaviors may be part of a larger pattern of interpersonal violence.
In conclusion, the debate over whether stalking and harassment are distinct underlying processes or different behavioral manifestations of the same underlying processes is ongoing. While there are underlying processes associated with both behaviors, there are also differences in motivation, behavior, and consequences. Ultimately, further research is needed to better understand the underlying processes associated with both stalking and harassment and to determine the most effective prevention and intervention strategies.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Davis, K. E., & Frieze, I. H. (2000). Domestic violence: Perspectives and implications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Meloy, J. R. (2002). The psychology of stalking: Clinical and forensic perspectives. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Mullen, P. E., Pathe, M. T., & Purcell, R. (2000). Stalkers and their victims. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Reyns, B. W., Henson, B., & Fisher, B. S. (2017). Stalking victimization among college students: An examination of the interpersonal process model. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(19), 2958-2981.
Sheridan, L. P., Blaauw, E., & Davies, G. M. (2003). Stalking: Knowns and unknowns. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 4(2), 148-162.
Spitzberg, B. H., & Cupach, W. R. (2007). The dark side of relationship pursuit: From attraction to obsession and stalking (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.