Effect of the Breakup Context on Unwanted Pursuit Behavior Perpetration Between Former Partners


  • Preliminary results presented at the International Association for Relationship Research Conference, July 17–20, 2008, in Providence, RI, and at the Conference of the Division of Forensic Psychology, June 23–25, 2009, in Preston, UK.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Olivia De Smet, M.S.
Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology
Ghent University
Henri Dunantlaan 2
9000 Ghent
E-mail: olivia.desmet@ugent.be


Abstract:  Former partners comprise the most important subgroup of stalkers. However, contextual factors related to the breakup are hardly examined to explain ex-partner pursuit. In a community sample of 194 separated persons, about one-fifth perpetrated at least one unwanted pursuit behavior in the past 2 weeks. Being female, lowly educated, and socially undesirable raised the number of perpetrated behaviors. Beyond these effects, the number of behaviors increased when the cause of the break was attributed to the ex-partner or external factors and when the ex was appraised as the breakup initiator. Breakup reasons, the ex-partner’s lack in meeting family obligations and own infidelity, also related to pursuit behaviors albeit inferior to subjective attributions and appraisals of initiation. Finally, participants who felt more anxious or lonely negative showed more behaviors. The results enlighten that the breakup context gains further attention. Clinical treatment might benefit from fostering cognitive reconstructions and breakup adjustment.