Diagnostic typologies of stalking offenders

Alicia Nijdam-Jones, Fordham University


Background: Research examining the motivations and psychopathologies of stalkers has found that a stalking offender’s mental health can play direct and indirect roles in offending behavior. This study examined the mental disorder diagnoses of adults convicted with stalking-related offences in order to identify diagnostic typologies associated with stalking. Method: 139 stalking offenders in New York were recruited and interviewed by trained psychologists and diagnosed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I and Axis II Disorders (SCID I & II). Analyses examined the extent to which stalking behaviors and offender characteristics differed across diagnostic groups. Results: Of the 139 study participants, the majority were male (n=131, 90%) and averaged 36 years old (Mdn= 33, SD=11.1). Participants identified as Caucasian (n=39, 28%), Black (n=43, 31%), Hispanic (n=40, 29%), or other (n=17, 12%). The most common index offense was stalking or harassment (n=67, 60%), followed by assault (n=19, 17%), violation of an order of protection or criminal contempt (n = 18, 16%) or another related offense (n = 7, 6%). Seventy-one percent of the sample met criteria for a clinical diagnosis (n = 99), and there were high rates of comorbidity with almost a third of the sample ( n = 61, 44%) receiving diagnoses that fell into multiple categories of disorders: psychotic disorder (n=15, 11%), mood or anxiety disorder (n=40; 29%), substance use disorder (n=64; 46%), and personality disorder (n = 68; 49%). Nearly a third of the sample (n=40; 29%) did not meet criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis. Conclusions: Although few of the expected associations identified in previous research were observed in this study, the results suggest that psychopathology does play an important role in understanding the motivations and clinical characteristics that relate to stalking behaviors, especially with regards to substance use disorder. The presence of a substance use disorder was associated with higher rates of prior criminal justice contact and increased violence and aggression, supporting the well-established research literature that substance use is a risk factor for violent or aggressive behaviors. Clinical implications and future research directions are discussed.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Nijdam-Jones, Alicia, "Diagnostic typologies of stalking offenders" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10191621.