Intimate Partner Cyberstalking Among Young Adults: Associations with Psychological and Social Well-Being

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Reiss, Dana
Curbow, Barbara A
Intimate partner cyberstalking (IPC) is problematic among young adults, as they often use technology when managing their romantic relationships. There is limited research investigating IPC and associated psychological and social well-being. To address these gaps, three manuscripts were written that included an examination of IPC (victimization, perpetration, and experiencing/engaging in both) among young adults and associations with depressive symptoms, social isolation, emotional reactions, attachment dimensions, and social support. The samples in Manuscripts 1 and 3 included 469 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers (ages 18-25) who completed a survey online about IPC and health states. The sample in Manuscript 2 included 104 university students of comparable ages who identified IPC behaviors and completed a Q-sort about their perceived severity of IPC via a second online survey. Students also provided qualitative responses about severity. The Q-sort scores were applied to victimization data reported by MTurk workers (n=181) to understand IPC severity experienced. In Manuscript 1, MTurk workers who reported IPC victimization and perpetration and those who experienced victimization only were more likely to report depressive symptoms and greater social isolation than those who indicated neither victimization nor perpetration. Participants who reported victimization and perpetration were more likely to feel flattered and loved from victimization than those who experienced victimization only. In Manuscript 2, fourteen themes were generated from the students’ qualitative responses that described the mildest and most severe IPC behaviors (seven themes each). As the students’ perceived severity of behaviors increased, reported victimization frequency among MTurk workers decreased. MTurk workers who were victims of severe IPC were more likely to experience depressive symptoms and greater social isolation than victims of moderate and mild IPC. In Manuscript 3, MTurk workers were more likely to engage in IPC perpetration when attachment anxiety increased. They were more likely to experience victimization when attachment avoidance increased. Social support from family, friends, and a special person protected against perpetration. Social support from friends and a special person protected against victimization. The results confirm that IPC is problematic among young adults, and the findings can inform policies and programs that aim to prevent IPC among this population.