Juvenile Delinquents' Perceptions of Shoplifting Motives: The Influence of Socialization, Age, and Gender
Forney, Judith C., Crutsinger, Christy A., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences
SCHOLARSHIP AND PRACTICE
Shoplifting is an act of theft committed from a retailer during store hours and it is one of the most prevalent and troubling crimes in society today. Juvenile shoplifters account for more than one-third of all shoplifting offenses in the United States. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of socialization and demographic characteristics on the motivations that juvenile delinquents associate with stealing clothing The sample (N = 124) included juvenile delinquents (ages 11 to 17) who were referred to a county probation department by a juvenile court in a southwest state. juvenile delinquents' perceptions of motivations for shoplifting clothing seem to be explained by three dimensions: sporting, socializing, and restricting.
Shoplifting is an act of theft committed from a retailer during store hours and it is one of the most prevalent and troubling crimes in society today. The extent of shoplifting is difficult to determine since many incidents are not detected or reported to authorities. It is estimated, however, that shoplifting costs retailers approximately $10 billion annually. Although adults make up the largest group of shoplifters (62%), the percentage of adolescent shoplifters (38%) is disproportionately high when compared to the makeup of the total U.S. population. In 1995, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 accounted for less than 10% of the population, but they represented one-third of all apprehended shoplifters ("Theft's Multibillion," 1997).
Self-service merchandising, easy-access displays, understaffed stores, and high employee turnover often leave sales floors unattended and have contributed to retailers becoming shoplifting victims (Dawson, 1993; Negley, 1998; Sennewald and Christman, 1992). Moreover, when employees consider their jobs as a temporary stop, rather than part of an ongoing career, their commitment to the organization and their inclination to protect it diminishes. From the consumer's viewpoint, this lack of personal service may cause them to perceive stores as impersonal and, therefore, disregard them as victims. Additionally, consumers often view retailers as "faceless entities with unlimited funds," and thus, they expect retailers to easily absorb merchandise shrinkage (Negley, 1998).
Motivations stimulate and compel a behavioral response and give direction to that response. Motives, therefore, are inferred from the behavior of individuals (Hawkins, Best, and Coney, 1995). Although motives vary, social motivations frequently are identified as the reason to shoplift (Cox et al., 1993). In addition, shoplifters may be motivated by the desire to possess and use the stolen item, to give it as a gift, or to experience the thrill of stealing (Sennewald and Christman, 1992). In a study of adolescent shoplifting behavior, Moschis, Cox, and Kellaris (1986) identified three motives as primary reasons adolescents shoplift: social, economic, and sporting (i.e., for excitement, thrill, or fun).
SOCIALIZATION AND ADOLESCENCE
Parents, siblings, peers, teachers, and close friends serve as reference groups for adolescents. The perspectives and values of these significant others are used by adolescents to develop a sense of social identity or a feeling of interconnectedness with others (Kaiser, 1990; Hawkins et al., 1995). Initially, parents serve as the primary reference group for children, providing and interpreting early socialization experiences. Conformity to parental expectations is usually rewarding and satisfying to both parent and child, increasing the likelihood of the child to repeat and internalize positive behavior.
As children enter adolescence, the influence of significant others shifts, where parental influence decreases while peer influence increases. During adolescence, the juvenile tries on a variety of nonfamily roles. These roles are accompanied by an increasing self-consciousness about developing an identity that is simultaneously linked with, and separate from, family, peers, and community. …