Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Lisa Bowleg


Unwanted pursuit and stalking are common, especially among young adults attending college. Cupach and Spitzberg (2004) developed their relational goal pursuit theory to explain unwanted pursuit and stalking. They theorize that unwanted pursuit and stalking develop out of a disjunctive relationship in which one person wants a type of relationship that the other does not. They propose that the interrelated and co-occurring processes of rumination, emotional flooding, and rationalization serve to disinhibit a pursuer' s idea of what is appropriate behavior. Thus, the object perceives the pursuer's behavior as excessive, inappropriate, and perhaps threatening.

I tested a model of unwanted pursuit and stalking based on Cupach and Spitzberg's (2004) theory. I hypothesized that jealousy, possessiveness, anger, shame, and guilt would contribute to rumination and emotional flooding which would, in turn, predict unwanted pursuit and stalking.

I first conducted a pilot study of the measures with 503 (320 females, 163 males, 20 sex not reported; M = 18.89 years, SD= 1.55) undergraduates who had difficulty letting go of someone after the breakup of a romantic relationship. For the final study, participants included 288 (227 females, 60 males, I sex not reported; M = 18.78 years, SD= 2.68) undergraduates who had difficulty letting go of a former partner. For both studies, students completed an anonymous online questionnaire which included measures of jealousy, possessiveness, anger, shame, guilt, rumination, emotional flooding, unwanted pursuit and stalking, and social desirability.

The results did not support the hypothesized model. Exploratory analysis revealed, instead, that possessiveness, anger, and rumination predict jealousy which, in turn, predicts mild pursuit. The results also indicated that possessiveness, anger, and rumination contribute directly to mild pursuit. The results provide a profile of a person who is likely to engage in mild pursuit after a relationship breakup. This person was possessive while the relationship is intact, angry after the breakup, and engages in rumination after relationship termination. Further, those who experience possessiveness, anger, and rumination are also more likely to feel jealous after a breakup and this contributes to the likelihood that she or he will pursue a former partner. These results have important implications for theory development as well as prevention and intervention efforts.



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