An investigation of the behavioural, dispositional, and personality associations with former-intimate harassment perpetration and victimisation

Wigman, Stefanie Jayne Ashton (2009) An investigation of the behavioural, dispositional, and personality associations with former-intimate harassment perpetration and victimisation. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Research on former-intimate harassment has focused on associated perpetrator behaviour, particularly physical aggression ( e.g., Coleman, 1997), and on the impact of harassment on victims ( e.g., Sheridan, 2001 ). The current research aimed to contribute to a wider understanding of former-intimate harassment by simultaneously investigating behavioural, dispositional and personality variables, and their roles in harassment perpetration and victimisation, using questionnaire based studies. Study 1 (N = 160 undergraduates; 73 males) assessed whether three levels of harassment (non-, minor or severe) were associated with physical aggression, control, and personality traits. Personality characteristics of, and relationship behaviours engaged in by victims of former-intimate harassment were also investigated. The harassment groups significantly differed on: perpetration of control, physical aggression, and harassment victimisation, and on neuroticism. Discriminant Function Analysis (OF A) correctly identified 66% of cases (n = 83). There were no sex differences in harassment victimisation rates. The majority of victims also reported perpetrating harassment, indicating harassment mutuality. Harassment victimisation was associated with physical aggression and control victimisation, as were victims' use of these behaviours during the intimate relationship, and victims' psychoticism scores.
Study 2 aimed to classify the three harasser groups based on undergraduates' responses to measures of jealousy, dependency, attachment, perpetration and victimisation of relationship aggression, and harassment victimisation (N = 177; 50 males). Groups significantly differed on: preoccupied attachment, jealousy, emotional reliance, verbal aggression and harassment victimisation, and physical aggression perpetration. DFA correctly classified 61 % of cases (n = 107). The findings demonstrated the prevalence and mutuality of harassment, and develop understanding of behavioural and dispositional variables that theoretically distinguish harassers.
Study 3 investigated a sample of offenders incarcerated for crimes other than harassment, to contribute to understanding of the disparity between the large number of victims' reports of harassment and the relatively few cases proceeding to court. Male prisoners (N = 95) completed the measures from Study 2, and a measure of personality disorder (PD) tendencies. Harassment was common, and groups differed significantly on: harassment victimisation, relationship aggression perpetration and victimisation, fearful attachment, antisocial, schizotypal, and borderline PDs. DF A correctly classified 63% of cases (n = 48).
Study 4 utilised crime survey data to examine stalking vi timisation in a large scale population. Victims of stranger stalkers were more likely to be men, and were significantly older than victims of intimate stalkers, who were more likely to be women. Men and women were equally likely to be stalking victims, although men experienced significantly more stalking acts than women did. Generally, there were no sex differences in disclosure of victimisation to a number of sources. Many victims reported that police and government agencies were not responsive enough regarding 'domestic violence'.
Five broad conclusions can be drawn from the research findings, relating to: {l) the prevalence of harassment; (2) mutuality of harassment; (3) behavioural associations with harassment; ( 4) traits and dispositions of harassers and victims; and (5) disclosure of, and responses to, victimisation. Implications, limitations, and future research considerations are discussed.

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