English Period 2
24 March 2014
Why People Steal
The issue of stealing is one of the most widespread crimes, and its relative ease compared to other crimes opens it up to aspiring criminals (Berlin). It allows it to develop in many humans and societies even though it is regarded as a problem in most societies, and it becomes more likely to be used as a coping mechanism (Smithstein). In addition, it is also popular as rebellious and anti-establishment behavior. There are clear distinctions between groups of thieves, like professionals and amateurs, and adults and juveniles (Berlin). While professionals tend to be influenced by similar causes as other thieves, they are generally the only ones who steal for profit (Smithstein). Therefore, financial reasons are not a major reason for theft. The same applies to adults and kids, where kids don’t always understand what they really want despite both groups sharing root causes (Berlin). Similarly, kleptomania, a disorder associated with impulsive stealing, is a relatively small cause for stealing despite it being one of the stereotypically perceived reasons for theft along with illicit accumulation of wealth. Furthermore, it isn’t even the dominant mental disorder associated with causing theft (Chan et. al). The main causes for stealing don’t conform completely to either the nature or nurture sides of the psychology spectrum, as there have been many identified. Varying research results that also use different terminologies to describe their claims on the topic of stealing can appear to be inconclusive. However, the ideas are ultimately either associated with stress or hidden primitive instincts.
One of the main causes for stealing in humans is stress. Stress-caused stealing can be divided into stress applied from society or stress applied from one’s own person. Stress from society in the context of shop lifting can come from the importance placed on luxury by human society. Even if someone is in a financially stable situation, if they are feeling deprived because they have wealthier friends, they are still liable to commit the crime (DiSalvo). Patterns in early shop lifters show that they focus on things that are considered nice over necessities (Berlin). This shows that stress created by desire of items prized by society can convince someone to steal. Another way stress is imposed by society is the feeling of retribution it creates in those who don’t fit in or disagree with its values. Those who oppose society will sometimes turn to stealing because it has a lower intensity compared to other crimes, but still brings damaging effects (Cromwell et. al). Many caught shop lifters that were surveyed described feeling like they were striking back when they committed their crimes (Berlin). Stress created through disgust is therefore another reason to steal. Theft from stress imposed on oneself can be a reaction to depression. Some thieves have been found, after being psychoanalyzed, to gain self-nourishment and worth from stealing (Berlin). Furthermore, shoplifting has been linked to other emotional problems including mood swings (Smithstein). In consequence, stealing acts as a coping mechanism for some people when dealing with emotional stress. Auto-imposed stress can also come from bad experiences. Many seasoned thieves have had authority issues since childhood, and many have been abused as well (Chan et al.). Also, compulsive stealing has been found to be brought upon by loss, trauma, and/or dysfunction suffered by the thief (Smithstein). Therefore, stealing can be a response to experiences that desensitize people. Stress is a cause for and teaches stealing because it is a reaction to the unpleasant feelings of greed, disconnection, and pain.
The second main cause for stealing in humans is primitive instincts. Most humans, being taught from birth to be civilized, can control or don’t even feel the urge to steal. However, certain cases have been