Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

McCubbin, Laurie

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Barbee, Anita

Committee Member

Hardesty, Patrick

Committee Member

Hopkins, Katy

Committee Member

Antle, Becky

Author's Keywords

stalking; empathy; attachment; self-esteem; courting; relationships


Stalking became a prominent term in U.S culture in 1990 after a celebrity was murdered by a stalker in 1989. While media portrays stalking as a violent crime, often directed towards celebrities and prominent political figures, this is a much more common occurrence than people are aware, most often directed at women and perpetrated by men. Stalking often consists of the milder end of the continuum of behaviors, such as spying and leaving gifts for the target, and is often perpetrated by an individual the target knows, such as an acquaintance of an ex-intimate. Forty-eight percent of stalkers fall in a category described as engaging in mild behaviors for the purpose of obtaining a desired relationship. Stalking can have deleterious effects on the target, regardless of the severity of the behavior. It affects the target, as well as third parties close to the target, both mentally and physically. The current study utilized a mixed methods approach to examine the impact of empathy, self-esteem, and anxious attachment on the engagement of milder stalking behaviors. Findings show that most stalking behaviors are significantly predicted by lower levels of empathy. Higher levels of anxious attachment and lower self-esteem were also shown to be related to engaging in several stalking behaviors. Qualitative results tended to be consistent with facets of Relational Goal Pursuit Theory and suggested that those who engage in stalking behaviors might experience difficulty with perspective-taking and lack awareness of their own behaviors.