Teen Stalking Victims at Higher Risk for Depression, Risky Behaviors

A new study has found that 14 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys are victims of stalking.

These teens are also more likely to report symptoms linked to depression, as well as risky behavior, including binge drinking and sexting, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For the study, researchers surveyed 1,236 randomly selected teens. The survey asked teens specific questions about the actions of others. Because it’s generally agreed that stalking requires a pattern of repeated unwanted behaviors, researchers used a list of 19 stalking victimization indicators and gathered data about how often each one occurred.

Teens were then separated into three classes based on the frequency of exposure: A non-victim class, a minimal exposure class, and a victim class.

Class size was fairly consistent across genders with 50 percent of girls and 53 percent of boys falling into the non-victim class, 36 percent of girls and 34 percent of boys qualifying for the minimal exposure class, and 14 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys making up the victim class.

“Little is actually known about the rates and potential consequences of stalking victimization in developing adolescent populations,” said lead investigator Dennis E. Reidy, Ph.D., Division of Violence Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“Identifying how these different stalking tactics manifest in different combinations is critical because different stalking profiles likely confer varying degrees and forms of risk. For instance, a victim primarily experiencing surveillance/monitoring by a stalker may suffer far fewer physical, social, and psychological consequences than a victim of a stalker showing more diversity in stalking behavior.”

Once the researchers identified the three classes, they conducted further analysis to determine the potential mental and behavioral health factors associated with being a victim of stalking.

Along with tracking the stalking indicators, the survey also asked the teens about psychiatric symptoms, such as mood disorder, post-traumatic stress, feelings of hopelessness; sexual behaviors, including number of partners, frequency of sexting, oral sex, and intercourse; and substance use.

The findings revealed that teens in the victim class were more likely to report mood symptoms and instances of risky behavior than teens in the other two groups.

“A general trend across boys and girls alike emerged,” Reidy said. “Adolescents in the victim class reported more psychiatric symptoms during the past month and a higher frequency of physical dating violence victimization, alcohol use, and binge drinking during the prior 12 months. Additionally, girls in the victim class reported higher prevalence of marijuana use and more sexting and oral sex partners during the past year.”

“The data suggest a substantial proportion of adolescents are victims of stalking and are likewise at risk for a number of deleterious health outcomes,” he added. “As such, this population merits further attention by prevention researchers and practitioners.”

Source: Elsevier