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Shoplifting is often perceived as a minor crime, but there are approximately 27 million shoplifters in the United States alone. Shoplifting impacts more than the shoplifter. It contributes heavily in security costs for stores, prices for merchandise, lost dollars in sales taxes that go to local communities and the overburdened court room.

Many teenagers are aware of the damages shoplifting causes, but a few still continue to participate anyways. Most people assume teens shoplift out of rebellion; however there can be several reasons why a teenager chooses to shoplift.

Peer pressure

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, 75 percent of shoplifters are adults, but 55 percent of them said they started shoplifting in their teens. Some teens attribute peer pressure as one reason they decided to shoplift.

For example, Jenny and Susan are close friends and often go to the mall after school. One day, Jenny sees Susan slip a gold necklace into her bag. After they leave the store, Jenny asks why Susan didn’t pay for the item. Susan gives a generic excuse and says she needs Jenny to lookout for her. Jenny wants to be a good friend and starts helping Susan shoplift. The last thing Jenny wants to do is get her friend in trouble.

It is peer pressure that often influences teenagers how they should think, dress or act. If a close friend is pressuring them into shoplifting, they might feel the need to follow along. It’s not a good excuse, but it’s often pointed to as a possible justification for shoplifting among young adults.


Teenagers often seek out risky behavior since they do not fully understand the consequences to their actions. For teens who shoplift, they want to see if they can steal and get away with it. They might do it to challenge traditional authority or to seek out attention from family or friends.

NASP states there is also a chemical reaction that comes from “getting away with it”  which produces an incredible rush or high feeling. To some shoplifters, the “rush” is actually more rewarding than any of the products they stole.


It is not surprising that some teenagers shoplift to send a message. However, they might not be challenging their parents or police. They might be trying to defy a company that they see as unjust or represents unethical values.

Adults and teenagers use this reasoning for shoplifting. In reality, shoplifting hurts other consumers more than it does the store itself. Usually stores will include additional costs in the price to cover for shoplifting, so it impacts the consumers who are paying for the items more than anyone else.

There other explanations like drug addiction, kleptomania, reselling stolen merchandise and poverty that influence shoplifters. For teenagers, those reasons are less likely. They are typically acting out on personal interest and ignoring the severe consequences that can follow.

If you are concerned your child is shoplifting, have them speak to a mental health professional. They might feel embarrassed or closed off at first, but it will help them understand and stop the negative behavior.