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Attachment Disorders Linked to Increase Risk of stalking

Updated on July 3, 2014


The amount of reports about stalking related crimes is on the rise but there is barely any research done on what makes a person develops a stalking personality. This paper explores a possible theory which is a negative attachment to parents in childhood causing this behavior later on in life. Before we get to the main topic, first there needs to be a definition between unrequited courtship and stalking behaviors

Difference Between Unrequited Courtship and Stalking

Unrequited courtship and stalking are almost the same thing. they both have a diagnosis of having an unhealthy obsession with a person and does not take no for a answer.(Sinclair, Frieze 2000). In fact, the only difference according to Brian Spitzberg, William Cupach, and Lea Ciceraro in Sex Differences in Stalking and Obsessive Relational Intrusion-Two Meta-Analysis, stalking is a just a severe form of unwanted relationship pursuit (2010). Many times it starts with unrequited courtship and overtime will develop into its severe form. The main difference between patterns however is that unrequited courtship is short lived and more annoying than threatening while stalking is threatening and can be very lengthy. However, it is more common to get a complaint for unrequited than full out stalking.

In Say Anything John Cusack played a man who stood in front of the woman he liked and played a love song to try to win her heart
In Say Anything John Cusack played a man who stood in front of the woman he liked and played a love song to try to win her heart | Source

Unrequited Courtship

A lot of theorists are making a point that pursuit is often portrayed in movies and television shows to be romantic and that is why the number of unwanted relationship pursuit is being reported more (Sinclair, Frieze 2000). In fact, many people believe that it is the best way to show your adoration for another person. There are a lot of television shows and movies showcasing a person standing outside of an apartment complex of and blasting love songs after a fight and that saves their relationship. So it makes sense that people who grew up with these movies will think its acceptable gesture.


There are six characteristics of unrequited courtship are approaching the victim, physical abuse, intimidating the victim, harming oneself, verbal abuse, and surveillance of the victim..(Sinclair & Frieze 2000).

For unrequited courtship to become stalking several measures have to be in place. These measures are course of conduct or in other words repeated tries at getting to the victim, the stalker would have an expressly unwanted and harassing nature, and the victim must feel fear for other themselves, their family and friends, or their property (Spitzberg, Cupach, and Ciceraro 2010). The definition of a stalker is rather vague because stalking itself is hard to prove.

Stalking Facts

Stalking is one of the hardest and scariest crimes because for the majority of victims have no idea that they are being stalked and for those that do it is a nightmare. Stalkers can find their phone numbers, addresses, online profiles and internet sites that victims visit regularly, find out the school they go to or their work, etc.

In fact two percent of men and eight percent of woman in the United States report being stalked every year (Spitzberg, Cupach, Ciceraro 2010). However on Lynn McCuthchean, Mara Aruguete, Vann Scott, Jennifer Parker, and John Calicchia’s study on The Development and Validation of an Indirect measure of Celebrity Stalking found that 23% of college students in the study have reported being stalked with 1% admitted to have stalked somebody (2000). There is a lot of inconsistency between reports on the number of people have being stalked, on one report it had 1% of women and .4% of men being stalked in the United States (Spitzberg, Cupach, Ciceraro 2010).

75% of stalking cases comes from failing relationships in which one person wants the relationship to end and the other person does not. Half of these cases are because of failing romantic relationships, while another 30% comes from failing friendships (Spitzberg, Cupach, Ciceraro 2010). Surprisingly the timespan for stalking tends to average around 24 to 36 months (Spitzberg, Cupach, Ciceraro 2010).

Mark David Chapman's headshot after killing John Lennon.
Mark David Chapman's headshot after killing John Lennon. | Source

Celebrity Stalking

Most stalkers stalk people they know however with advancement in technology people can stalk anybody including celebrities. Celebrity stalking can be fatal including when Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon and the stalker who killed herself outside of Paula Adul’s house (Daniel 2010). It’s clear that celebrities deal with stalkers but the question is why do they attract stalkers.

Why Do People Stalk Celebrities?

Celebrities are public figures. Most people cannot name all the presidents that we have, nor can they name the top scientists, or NASA astronauts but they can describe who their favorite celebrity had last dated, what they had for breakfast, and how many times they changed hairstyles. Every day people are surrounded by celebrities though movies, television shows, books, magazines, radio, and now even the internet. The internet had made it easier to keep up with your favorite celebrity though fanclubs, Youtube, and other websites. It makes it easier to keep up on celebrities but it increases the likelihood of stalkers emerging. The problem is when you get that involved with a celebrity that close bond that a person gets can turn into an obsession.

Most stalkers start out as regular fans. There is a peaking order; first the stalker is exposed to the celebrity from watching a concert or a movie, or any other media outlet. Then the stalker starts getting curious and joining the celebrity’s fanpage, than the stalker starts looking up information about the celebrity to the point where they can waste all day just virtually spying on the celebrity. At that point that person passes the line between fan and stalker/obsessive fan.


Anxious Attachment Disorder

Stalking is a very complex disorder due to the fact that the causes are unknown. However one of the leading theories is that having poor attachment to their parents or having too much attachment to their parents can cause an increased chance at a person developing a stalker-like behavior. The leading theory involves Anxious Attachment Disorder. This disorder is associated with a fear of abandonment and rejection by significant others (Derlega, Winstead, Pearson, Janda 2011). Usually this form of attachment problem is caused by having absent parents as children. That lack of attachment makes a stalker terrified that their significant lover is going to abandon them. The fear is so great that many times they start stalking them before they break up. In fact it was found that victims of stalkers with Anxious Attachment problems show a high level of emotional reactivity at the end of the relationship which with the stalker’s need to for excessive closeness increases the time span of the stalking (Derlega, Winstead, Pearson, Janda 2011). Derlega, Winstead, Pearson, and Janda found in their study, Unwanted Pursuit in Same-Sex Relationships: Effect on Attachment Styles, Investment Model Variables, and Sexual Minority Stressors that higher anxious attachment among rejected partners was associated with frequent pursuit behaviors (2011).

Celebrity stalkers also fall within this disorder but with a slight difference. They can have a high attachment to celebrities and parents and not be a stalker (McCutceon and etc 2006). The key is high attachment for celebrities and low attachments to parents


Through the differences between unwanted relationship pursuit and stalking, the characteristics and statistics, attachment disorders relationship to stalking, and celebrity stalking it is easy to say people with anxious attachment have a higher chance at stalking than the other forms of attachment. Most of the stalking cases involve partners who are in the process of breaking up however some stalkers chose people who they do not know like celebrities. Regardless if the stalkers physically knows the victim or not the emotionally pain for the victim and the stalker alike is devastating.


Daniel, Annique (2010) Celebrity Stalking Cases, Psychiatric Disorders Suite 101,

Derlega, Valerian J., Winstead, Barbara A., Pearson, Matthew, R., Janda, Louis J. (2011), Unwanted Pursuit in Same-Sex Relationships: Effect on Attachment Styles, Investment Model Variables, and Sexual Minority Stressors, Partner Abuse V2 (3)300-323. Retrieved September 13,2011, from ProQuest Psychology Journals (Document ID:

McCutcheon, Lynn E. Scott, Vann B., Aruguete, Mara S., and Parker, Jennifer (2006). Exploring the Link Between Attachment and the Inclination to Obsess About or Stalk Celebrities. North American Journal or Psychology, V 8(2):289-301. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from ProQuest Psychology Journals (Document ID:1213258851).

McCutcheon, Lynn E., Aruguete, Mara, Scott, Vann B., Parker, Jennifer S., Calicchia, John (2006). The Development and Validation of an Indirect Measure of Celebrity Stalking, North American Journal or Psychology, V8(3):503-517. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from ProQuest Psychology Journals (Document ID:1213275281).

Sinclair, H.C., Frieze, Irene H. (2000), Initial Courtship Beahvior and Stalking: How Should We Draw the Line?, Violence and Victims, V15(1):23-40, Retrieved September 13, 2011, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID:1459293761).

Spitzberg, Brian H., Cupach, William R., Ciceraro, Lea D.L.(2010), Sex Differences in Stalking and Obsessive relational Intrusion: Two Meta-Analyses, partner Abuse, V1(3):259-286. Retrieved September 13, 2011, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID:2416959611)

Is there a Link Between Parental Attachment and Stalking?

Now that you read what I have to say, do you think there is a link?

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