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What really causes people to shoplift?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2018 | Shoplifting |

Certainly, some shoplifting happens for purely financial reasons. A child who does not have enough money to buy a toy decides to steal it from the store. An adult who needs to put food on the table feels they have no choice but to turn to theft. It does happen.

However, experts note that things like poverty or greed do not really drive most people to steal. Shoplifting is about something else entirely. It’s a psychological issue.

Below we will take a look at some of the real reasons for shoplifting. While this is not a comprehensive list, it can help you get some idea of why it happens.


About one out of every three shoplifters claims that they stole because they felt depressed, and experts have called depression “the single largest psychological factor” in these cases. People often shoplift at times when depression also tends to peak, such as around the Christmas holidays or around their birthday.

Does shoplifting help them cope? It may. It can prove thrilling and exciting, and someone who is dealing with depression needs that. The depression may also make them feel like they don’t care about the ramifications anymore, so it’s easier to take risks.


As you may know, kleptomania is an “Impulse Disorder.” People feel like they can’t help it, and they often feel irritated or tense before the theft occurs. This tension eases after the crime and they feel pleasure or joy.

In these cases, it’s not about money at all. They could probably easily afford the items that they take. They could earn $200,000 per year and steal something worth less than $10. The cost isn’t a factor and they often don’t want or need the item they take. They just enjoy the act of stealing and feel driven to do it.

Peer pressure

When looking at why young people steal, researchers found that peer pressure plays a significant role. The young people may be part of a group that embraces this type of deviant behavior, and they do it in order to fit in. They know it’s wrong and, again, they don’t need or want the items they steal. But they feel like they need to do it to impress their peers or to get accepted into the group.

Many young people also struggle with risk perception. They’ll do things that they later regret because they did not take the time to think about the overall risks and the potential impact on their future.

What’s next?

If you have been accused of shoplifting for any reason, you need to know what comes next. It’s time to look into all of your legal defense options.



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