Cyber-Stalking Victimization: What Predicts Fear Among Portuguese Adolescents?

  • Filipa Pereira
  • Marlene Matos


A large body of research clearly demonstrates that adolescents use technology to a staggering degree and that they are one of the main groups that are vulnerable to online victimization. However, the study of cyber-stalking, which is a form of cyber-harassment victimization, has been limited to the adult population and has resulted in some controversy regarding whether fear is a definitional criterion for this phenomenon. In Portugal, the study of cyber-stalking among adolescents is limited, as it is not yet a target of scientific research, public politics or social attention. The current study assessed the cyber-stalking victimization of 627 Portuguese adolescents (12- to 16-years-old). The prevalence of victimization, the cyber-victim’s profile, cyber-stalking dynamics, the cyber-stalker’s profile, parental cyber-involvement and adolescents fear reporting were analysed. The majority of the current sample admitted to having been the victim of cyber-stalking at some point in their life, and nearly half of the adolescents reported experiencing fear after the victimization. A logistic regression model was developed to predict fear reporting. Consistent with previous research, the results indicated that fear is strongly associated with female victims and shed light on the self-perception of online risk and a number of parental involvement practices. Being the target of 1) messages of exaggerated affection, 2) persistent cyber-stalking or 3) older cyber-stalkers was also associated with fear. These results underscore the importance of understanding fear as a complex emotion that results from the interaction of different variables. Thus, it is critical to adopt fear as a key criterion of the cyber-stalking definition. Implications for social, educational, political and judicial practices are also discussed.


Adolescents Cyber-stalking Fear Predictors Victimization 



The study was supported by a FCT — Portuguese National Funding Agency for Science, Research and Technology —— grant for project N° SFRH/BD/78004/2011: “Cyber-stalking Among Adolescents: Behaviours and Attitudes”, which was conducted within the PhD program in Applied Psychology.


  1. Akbaba, S., Peker, A., Eroğlu, Y., & Yaman, E. (2015). Cross-gender equivalence of cyber bullying and victimization. Participatory Educational Research (PER), 2(2), 59–69. doi: 10.17275/ Scholar
  2. Alexy, E., Burgess, A., Baker, T., & Smoyak, S. (2005). Perceptions of cyberstalking among college students. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 5(3), 279–289. doi: 10.1093/brief-treatment/mhi020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baum, K., Catalano, S., Rand, M., & Rose, K. (2009). Stalking victimization in the United States (NCJ 224527). Washington: Bureau of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  4. Baumrind, D. (1971). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11, 56–95. doi: 10.1177/0272431691111004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blaauw, E., Winkel, F. W., Arensman, E., Sheridan, S., & Freeve, A. (2002). The toll of stalking: the relationship between features of stalking and psychopathology. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17(1), 50–63. doi: 10.1177/0886260502017001004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bocij, P. (2003). Victims of cyberstalking: an exploratory study of harassment perpetrated via the internet. First Monday, 8(10–6), 1–17.Google Scholar
  7. Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated. The social lives of networked teens. New York: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cavezza, C., & McEwan, T. E. (2014). Cyberstalking versus off-line stalking in a forensic sample. Psychology, Crime & Law, 20(10), 955–970. doi: 10.1080/1068316X.2014.893334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity rethinking the concept. Gender and Society, 19(6), 829–859. doi: 10.1177/0891243205278639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cupach, W. R., & Spitzberg, B. H. (1998). Obsessive relational intrusion and stalking. In B. H. Spitzberg & W. R. Cupach (Eds.), The dark side of close relationships (pp. 233–263). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  11. D’Ovidio, R., & Doyle, J. (2003). A study on cyberstalking: understanding investigative hurdles. FBI Bulletin, 72, 10–17.Google Scholar
  12. De Fazio, L. (2009). The legal situation on stalking among the European member states. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 15, 229–242. doi: 10.1007/s10610-009-9101-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Fazio, L., & Sgarbi, C. (2012). Nuove prospettive di ricerca in materia di atti persecutori: Il fenomeno del cyberstalking [New research perspectives about stalking: the phenomenon of cyberstalking]. Rassegna Italiana di Criminologia, 3, 146–159.Google Scholar
  14. Dietz, N. A., & Martin, P. Y. (2007). Women who are stalked: questioning the fear standard. Violence Against Women, 13, 750–776. doi: 10.1177/1077801207302698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doran, B. J., & Burgess, M. B. (2012). Putting fear of crime on the map: Investigating perceptions of crime using geographic information systems. New York: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-5647-7_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dürager, A., & Livingstone, S. (2012). How can parents support children’s internet safety? Accessed 25 Jan 2013.
  17. Fergus, S., & Zimmerman, M. (2005). Adolescent resilience: a framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 399–419. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ferraro, K. F. (1996). Fear of crime: Interpreting victimization risk. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  19. Ferreira, C., & Matos, M. (2013). Violência doméstica e stalking pós-rutura: dinâmicas, coping e impacto psicossocial na vítima [Domestic violence and post-break stalking: dynamic, coping and psychosocial impact on the victim]. Psicologia, 27(2), 81–106.Google Scholar
  20. Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K., & Wolak, J. (2000). Online victimization: A report on the nation’s youth. US Department of Justice, US: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Accessed 10 Dec 2011.
  21. Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R. K., & Turner, H. A. (2007). Poly-victimization: a neglected component in child victimization. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31, 7–26. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.06.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fisher, B. S., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (2002). Being pursued: stalking victimization in a national study of college women. Criminology & Public Policy, 1, 257–308. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2002.tb00091.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fox, K. A., Nobles, M. R., & Piquero, A. R. (2009). Gender, crime victimization, and fear of crime. Security Journal, 22(1), 24–39. doi: 10.1057/sj.2008.13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fraser, C., Olsen, E., Lee, K., Southworth, C., & Tucker, S. (2010). The new age of stalking: technological implications for stalking. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 61, 39–55. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-6988.2010.01051.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Garofalo, J. (1981). The fear of crime: causes and consequences. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 72(2), 839–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grangeia, H. (2012). Stalking entre jovens: Da sedução ao assédio persistente [Stalking among young people: From seduction to persistent harassment]. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Braga: University of Minho.Google Scholar
  27. Grangeia, H., & Matos, M. (2011). Da invisibilidade ao reconhecimento do stalking [From invisibility to recognition of stalking]. In A. I. Sani (Ed.), Temas de vitimologia: Realidades emergentes na vitimação e respostas sociais [Victimology issues: Emerging realities on victimization and social responses] (pp. 61–84). Coimbra: Almedina.Google Scholar
  28. Grangeia, H., & Matos, M. (2013). Stalking – the Portuguese case: Discursive constructions of stalking and their implications. In S. Petrie (Ed.), Controversies in policy research: Critical analysis for a new era of austerity and privation (pp. 36–56). Hampshire: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Henson, B., Reyns, B. W., & Fisher, B. S. (2013). Fear of crime online? Examining the effect of risk, previous victimization and exposure on fear of online interpersonal victimization. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, XX(X), 1–23, doi:  10.1177/1043986213507403.
  30. Jackson, J. (2008). Bridging the social and the psychological in the fear of crime. In L. Murray & S. Farrall (Eds.), Fear of crime: Critical voices in an age of anxiety (pp. 143–167). Abingdon: GlassHouse.Google Scholar
  31. Johnson, M., & Kercher, G. (2009). Identifying predictors of negative psychological reactions to stalking victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(5), 866–882. doi: 10.1177/0886260508317195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jonathan, J. (2009) A psychological perspective on vulnerability in the fear of crime. Psychology, Crime and Law, 15(4), doi:  10.1080/10683160802275797.
  33. Jones, L., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2013). Trends in youth internet victimization: findings from three youth internet safety surveys 2000–2010. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(2), 179–186. doi: 10.1016/2011.09.015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kamir, O. (2001). Every breath you take: Stalking narratives and the law. The Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor: University of Michingan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. King-Ries, A. J. (2010). Teens, technology, and cyberstalking: The domestic violence wave of the future? ExpressO. Accessed 15 May 2013.
  36. Lamborn, S. D., Mounts, N. S., Steinberg, L., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1991). Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglected families. Child Development, 62, 1049–1065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Washington: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  38. Livingstone, S., & Haddon, L. (2009). EU kids online: Final report. London: EU Kids Online, London School of Economics & Political Science.Google Scholar
  39. Livingstone, S., Kirwil, L., Ponte, C., & Staksrud, E. (2013). In their own words: What bothers children online? London: EU Kids Online, London School of Economics & Political Science.Google Scholar
  40. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Socialization, personality, and social development 4th edn., Vol. 4, pp. 1–101). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  41. Machado, C. (2004). Crime e insegurança: Discursos do medo, imagens do outro. Lisboa: Editorial Notícias.Google Scholar
  42. Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, M. (2013). Teens, social media, and privacy. Washington: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.Google Scholar
  43. Mapel, Short, & Brown. (2011). Cyberstalking in the United Kingdom. An analysis of the ECHO pilot survey. Luton: Network for Surviving Stalking & National Centre for Cyberstalking Research.Google Scholar
  44. Marcum, C. D., Higgins, G. E., & Ricketts, M. L. (2014). Juveniles and cyber stalking in the United States: an analysis of theoretical predictors of patterns of online perpetration. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 8(1), 47–56.Google Scholar
  45. Matos, M. G., & Ferreira, M. (2013). Nascidos digitais: Novas linguagens, lazer e dependências. Lisboa: Coisas de Ler.Google Scholar
  46. Matos, M., Grangeia, H., Ferreira, C., & Azevedo, V. (2011). Inquérito de vitimação por stalking. Relatório de investigação. Research Group of Stalking in Portugal. Braga: University of Minho.Google Scholar
  47. Matos, M., Grangeia, H., Ferreira, C., & Azevedo, V. (2012). Vitimação por stalking: Preditores do medo. Análise Psicológica, XXX(1–2), 161–176, doi:  10.14417/ap.544.
  48. McEwan, T., Mullen, P. E., & Purcell, R. (2007). Identifying risk factors in stalking: a review of current research. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 30(1), 1–9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2006.03.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McEwan, T. E., Mullen, P. E., & MacKenzie, R. (2009). A study of predictors of persistence in stalking situations. Law and Human Behavior, 33, 149–158. doi: 10.1007/s10979-008-9141-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McFarlane, J., Willson, P., Malecha, A., & Lemmey, D. (2000). Intimate partner violence: a gender comparison. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 158–169. doi: 10.1177/088626000015002003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mesch, G. S. (2000). Perceptions of risk, lifestyle activities, and fear of crime. Deviant Behavior, 21(1), 47–62. doi: 10.1080/016396200266379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mitchell, K. J., Ybarra, M. L., Jones, L. M., & Espelage, D. (2014). What features make online harassment incidents upsetting to youth? Journal of School Violence, 1–23. doi: 10.1080/15388220.2014.990462.
  53. Mohandie, K., Meloy, J. R., McGowan, M. G., & Williams, J. (2006). The RECON typology of stalking: reliability and validity based upon a large sample of North American stalkers. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(1), 147–155. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2005.00030.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Moore, M. H., & Trojanowicz, M. H. (1988). Corporate strategies for policing. Perspectives on Policing, 6.Google Scholar
  55. Mullen, P. E., Pathé, M., & Purcell, R. (2009). Stalkers and their victims (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Novo, F., Pereira, F., & Matos, M. (2014). Cyber-aggression in adolescence and parental involvement: from perpetration to supervision. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 8(2), 94–110.Google Scholar
  57. Pereira, F., & Matos, M. (2015). Cyberstalking entre adolescentes: Uma nova forma de assédio e perseguição? [Cyberstalking among adolescents: A new form of harassment and persecution?] Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, 16(1), doi:  10.15309/15psd160207.
  58. Pereira, F., Matos, M., & Sampaio, M. (2014). Cyber-crimes against adolescents: Bridges between psychological and a design approach. In M. M. C. Cunha (Ed.), Handbook of research on digital crime, cyberspace security, and information assurance. Pennsylvania: IGI Global. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6324-4.ch014.Google Scholar
  59. Pereira, F., Matos, M., Sheridan, L., & Scott, A. (2015). Perceptions and personal experiences of unwanted attention among Portuguese male students. Psychology, Crime & Law, 21(4), 398–411. doi: 10.1080/1068316X.2014.989167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pettalia, J. L., Levin, E., & Dickinson, J. (2013). Cyberbullying: eliciting harm without consequence. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(6), 2758–2765. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.07.020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Presnky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. De On the Horizon (NCB University Press, 9(5).Google Scholar
  62. Purcell, R., Pathé, M., & Mullen, P. E. (2004). When do repeated intrusions become stalking? The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 15(4), 571–583. doi: 10.1080/14789940412331313368.
  63. Reno, J. (1999). 1999 report on cyber stalking: A new challenge for law enforcement and industry. Washington: U.S. Department of Justice Accessed 11 Oct 2011.
  64. Reyns, B. W., Henson, B., & Fisher, B. S. (2012). Stalking in the twilight zone: extent of cyberstalking victimization and offending among college students. Deviant Behavior, 33(1), 1–25. doi: 10.1080/01639625.2010.538364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rosen, L. D., Cheever, N. A., & Carrier, L. M. (2008). The association of parenting style and child age with parental limit setting and adolescent MySpace behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 459–471. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2008.07.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sandywell, B. (2006). Monsters in cyberspace cyberphobia and cultural panic in the information age. Information, Communication & Society, 9(1), 39–61. doi: 10.1080/13691180500519407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sheridan, L. P., & Grant, T. (2007). Is cyberstalking different? Psychology, Crime & Law, 13, 627–640. doi: 10.1080/10683160701340528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sheridan, L. P., Blaauw, E., & Davies, G. M. (2003). Stalking: knowns and unknowns. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 4, 148–162. doi: 10.1177/1524838002250766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Spitzberg, B. H., & Cupach, W. R. (2007). The state of the art of stalking: taking stock of the emerging literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal, 12, 64–86. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2006.05.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Spitzberg, B. H., & Cupach, W. R. (2014). The dark side of relationship pursuit. From attraction to obsession and stalking (2nd edn.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  71. Spitzberg, B. H., & Hoobler, G. (2002). Cyberstalking and the technologies of interpersonal terrorism. New Media & Society, 4(1), 66–78. doi: 10.1177/14614440222226271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Spitzberg, B. H., Cupach, W. R., & Ciceraro, L. D. L. (2010). Sex differences in stalking and obsessive relational intrusion: two meta-analyses. Partner Abuse, 1, 259–285. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.1.3.259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Stonard, K. E.; Bowen, E., Walker, K., & Price, S. A. (2015). They’ll always find a way to get to you: technology use in adolescent romantic relationships and its role in dating violence and abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1–35. doi:  10.1177/0886260515590787.
  74. Subrahmanyam, K., Greenfield, P. M., & Tynes, B. (2004). Constructing sexuality and identity in an online teen chatroom. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 651–666. doi: 10.1016/ 2004.09.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Subrahmanyam, K., Smahel, D., & Greenfield, P. (2006). Connecting developmental constructions to the internet: identity presentation and sexual exploration in online teen chat rooms. Developmental Psychology, 42(3), 395–40. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.42.3.395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Stalking in America: Findings from national violence against women survey. Washington: National Institute of Justice and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
  77. Truman, J. (2005). Predictors of fear of crime and the relationship of crime rates and fear of crime. Undergratuate Research Journal, 1, 18–27.Google Scholar
  78. Warr, M., & Stafford, M. C. (1983). Fear of victimization: a look at the proximate causes. Social Forces, 61(4), 1033–1043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Windle, M. (1999). Critical conceptual and measurement issues in the study of resilience. In M. D. Glantz & J. L. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations (pp. 161–176). New York: Klumer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar
  80. Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D. (2006). Online victimization: 5 years later. Alexandria: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.Google Scholar
  81. Wolak, J., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2007). Does online harassment constitute bullying? An exploration of online harassment by known peers and online-only contacts. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, S51–S58. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.08.019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wright, M., & Masten, A. (2005). Resilience process and development. In S. Goldstein & R. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of resilience in children (pp. 17–37). New York: Springer Science. doi: 10.1007/s10896-007-9111-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Ybarra, M. L., Mitchell, K. J., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2006). Examining characteristics and associated distress related to Internet harassment: findings from the second youth Internet safety survey. Pediatrics, 118(4), 1169–1177. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-0815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zweig, J. M., Dank, M., Yahner, J., & Lachman, P. (2013). The rate of cyber dating abuse among teens and how it relates to other forms of teen dating violence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(7), 1063–1077. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-9922-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

Personalised recommendations