U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Juvenile Theft

NCJ Number
W K Brown; T A Newnam; W A Rhodes
Date Published
20 pages
Juvenile theft constitutes a common form of delinquent behavior, and most children will participate in this illegal activity at least once.
For many juveniles, theft is an isolated incident that will not be repeated. Theft is sometimes a dominant part of a peer group value system that will be outgrown by young adulthood. For a small percentage of delinquent youth, theft is a central part of a developing criminal lifestyle. Juvenile theft is usually an early indicator of other problems. It represents a form of symbolic behavior through which juveniles often display their unhappiness and insecurity. Most children know that theft is wrong, but they steal as a way of openly expressing their confusion and discontent. Statistics show that most reported thefts in the United States are committed by persons under 20 years of age. The question-and-answer format of the booklet deals with specific aspects of juvenile theft, including why juveniles steal, impulse control, kleptomania, stealing for profit, typical progression of juvenile theft, peer pressure, common types of juvenile theft, shoplifting, burglary, robbery, inconsistent discipline, societal factors contributing to juvenile theft, and how juveniles can be helped to overcome theft. Consideration is also given to moral decisionmaking, behavioral and emotional warning signs of juvenile theft, how parents can reduce the risk of their children participating in theft and other delinquent activities, and agencies and professionals to contact about juvenile theft.