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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 42 (2000) 3, 167 - 175

Review article

'Stalking': A forensic psychiatric approach

J.H. Kamphuis, P.M.G. Emmelkamp

background Stalking can be defined as the willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety. Although stalking is a recently developed legal and clinical forensic concept, its historical roots can be traced back to early studies on erotomania (or Clérambault's syndrome).
aims Demographic and clinical characteristics of stalkers will be reviewed as well as the psychological consequences for victims of stalking.
methods A literature search was conducted on relevant keywords.
results The relatively scant empirical research included mostly uncontrolled studies in forensic settings that were primarily focused on documenting psychological characteristics of the stalkers. There remains a lack of reliable data regarding the nature and prevalence of stalking and the psychological impact on its victims.
conclusions Stalkers are best thought of as a heterogeneous group whose behaviors are motivated by various forms of psychopathology, including psychosis and severe personality disorders. Stalking research is still in its infancy and is complicated by inconsistent definition and (currently in the Netherlands) absence of a specific legal framework. Forensic psychiatry has not given adequate attention to stalking. Suggestions for future research and development of specific treatments for stalkers are presented.

keywords Clérambault's syndrome, erotomania, forensic psychiatry, personality disorders, stalking