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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Juvenile stalking ‘more violent than adult stalking’

Embargoed until 01 May 2009

Stalking by children and adolescents should be taken far more seriously, according to new research published in the May issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Psychiatrists and psychologists in Australia studied almost 300 child and adolescent stalkers. Although stalking among young people is often dismissed as being relatively rare and harmless, the researchers actually found that juvenile stalking is characterised by “far higher levels of threats and violence than adult stalking”. Of the 299 juvenile stalkers identified in the study, almost all (98%) pursued a person who was already known to them.

Unlike stalking among adults, very few juvenile stalkers were infatuated with their victim or were trying to impose an unwanted relationship on them. Instead, most of the cases of stalking were an extension of bullying. Alarmingly, over half of the victims (54%) were physically attacked – some sustaining significant injuries. A further 2% suffered serious sexual assault. Three-quarters (75%) of the victims reported being threatened. These ranged from veiled threats such as “watch your back”, to explicit threats to harm, rape or kill. In 15% of cases, threats of violence had been made against the victim’s family or friends as well.

A significant minority of the juvenile stalkers (36%) were female – a far higher proportion than found among adult stalkers. While male adolescent stalkers mainly pursued girls, female stalkers tended focused their harassment on other girls. They also often recruited their friends as accomplices to the stalking.

Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers said: “Stalking behaviour in juveniles has traditionally been trivialised as uncommon and innocuous. This study provides the first systematic examination of juvenile stalkers. Juvenile stalking is characterised by direct, intense, overtly threatening and all too often violent forms of pursuit.

“The seriousness that is afforded to adult forms of stalking should similarly apply to this behaviour among juveniles, given the even greater risks of disruption to the victim’s life and risks of being attacked.”


For further information, please contact:
Kathy Oxtoby or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.

Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 0203 701 2538

 

References:

Purcell R, Moller B, Flower T and Mullen PE (2009) Stalking among juveniles, British Journal of Psychiatry, 194: 451-455

 

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