To someone on the outside, my life looked as bland and normal as a plain sheet of printer paper. I had two loving parents, a house far too large for the three of us, several well trained golden retrievers, and three Audi A4’s parked in the driveway. Little did they know my father was the biggest pothead ever, I occasionally stole hundreds of dollars worth of underwear from Victoria’s Secret, and my mother was dealing with the consequences of a seven-year-long family feud.
I will admit, other than the above deviations from the social norm, my life was pretty on the straight and narrow in high school. This is what I’d like to think separates my delinquent shoplifting experiences from life course-persistent offenders. According to our lecture on Control Bonding Theory, these offenders are those who take their delinquent actions and behaviors beyond high school and college into their adult life (Hoffman, Slide ?…–). I fit in with the category of those who are considered to be adolescent-limited delinquents. They commit illegal acts to defy authority, experiment how far they can take their actions, and are around the ages of 12-17 (Hoffman, Slide ?…–). In order to understand why I shoplifted in high school, I must go into greater detail about the Differential Association Theory. Thinking back, I can now apply the Control Bonding Theory to my decision to stop shoplifting once I got into college.
I would say I’ve shoplifted about five times in my life. All of the offences took place throughout high school. I can’t remember specifically who showed me the ultimate way to smuggle underwear, but I do know I picked up the routine from a friend (a now three-times removed acquaintance). My friends and I were at the Tanger Outlets one weekend during Sophomore year. We went into Victoria’s Secret, that we called VS back then, and started to shop around. I noticed my friend picking up several pairs of underwear and putting them under the other items that she had put into her cart.
We went into a dressing room where she proceeded to take off her pants and start layering the underwear from her cart on top of her own. She pulled her pants back up, and walked out of the store with about $175 worth of underwear. Want to know a secret? VS underwear don’t have sensors on them. I asked her why she stole them and her reasonings made sense in my mind: They sell underwear for $15 when in reality they are probably worth $2.50. It’s a complete ripoff, so I rip them off. I agreed with her, thus starting my short-lived shoplifting habit.
I saw my friend successfully steal items that I wanted, so I followed in her footsteps, a classic example of Edwin Sutherland and Donald Cressey’s Differential Association Theory. The base of the theory is that criminal behavior is a learned trait (Differential). In other words, according to the theory, a person doesn’t start committing crimes on their own. They have to observe/interact with primary group members in order to pick up criminal behaviors (Differential). The primary group, meaning friends, parents, peers, and close relatives, has the most effect on the offender because when growing up, that group has influence over the offenders behaviors and ideals (Differential).
The Differential Association Theory acknowledges the fact that from the moment we are born, we are being shaped by society: [Individuals] learn gender roles through their interactions with their parents and observations of gender specific characteristics. Interaction and observations are the same methods of communication through which criminals learn their deviance (Differential). Throughout high school, I felt this pressure to be very feminine.
It’s not like I wasn’t feminine, but my primary concerns weren’t makeup and the latest Abercrombie and Fitch trends. I played every sport you could possibly play, including softball, which was referred to as dyke ball. Personally, I’m straight, but several of my teammates were apart of the LGBT community. I felt as though I was seen as being a part of that group, and back then I wanted to separate myself from that assumption.
I always have had more guy friends than girlfriends, but in middle/high school I was never romantically involved with anyone. That on top of my mother’s constant that’s not very ladylike of you pep talks, made me want to up the feminine ante. My thought process back then was maybe if I buy this sexy underwear, I’ll get a guy. The girl who taught me how to steal underwear had no trouble finding a new relationship every other day of the week. In order for me to fit in with the social norms that surrounded me, I felt the need to change my dynamic, which caused me to engage in criminal behavior.
There was a certain thrill that came with shoplifting. It’s like I was single handedly pulling off this big scheme against a corporate giant. When I got away with it once, every single time I shoplifted after I never thought about the possibility of being caught. I have never been caught, but the odds were never in my favor. Shoplifting is riskey; when caught there is a 50/50 chance you’ll be handed off to the police (Shoplifting). However, according to statistics compiled by the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, shoplifters are caught once every 48 times they shoplift (Shoplifting).
At the time, the benefit of stealing VS underwear outweighed the possibility that I could be caught. The Rational Choice Theory is based on the fact that people commit crimes because of the benefits (Clarke, 23). It also assumes that crimes are committed consciously, and not randomly (Clarke, 24). In my case, I didn’t just happen to throw on numerous pairs of underwear and walk out of VS, I deliberately stole them. The decision I made to shoplift also follows an important sequence the theory revolves around. I became involved with shoplifting, continued to do it, then halted after five shoplifting experiences. This pattern follows the initiation, habituation, and distancing stages of the theory (Clarke, 24).
There were several reasons why I stopped shoplifting. For one, my dad passed away and that meant I didn’t have an automatic lawyer to get me out of trouble. He had the tendency to take knick knacks from restaurants and similar establishments to keep as momentos. I was never really interested in how many travel size shampoo and conditioner bottles I could take from the housekeepers cart on my way out of the hotel. Thus I don’t consider him the reason why I started shoplifting.
He would have been mad for a second, then we would have laughed it off. Now that it’s just my mom and I, I know for a fact that me getting in trouble would kill her. She already has to work three jobs to get me through college, so paying a fine or to get me out of jail is not something she could afford to do. Several elements of the Control Bonding Theory explain why I chose to halt my deviant behavior.
Rather than looking at why people commit crimes, the Control Bonding Theory attempts to explain why individuals don’t get involved with criminal activities. According to Travis Hirshi, author of A Control Theory of Delinquency, …possessing strong social bonds gives the individual a “stake in conformity”; engaging in delinquency or crime involves the risk of losing those things that the individual deems valu?able, such as love and respect from parents or time and effort expended in school to obtain a good job (Hirshi, 272). There are four bonds associated with the theory: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief (Hirshi, 272). In the instance of my family, the theory contributes me stopping due to the attachment bond because of the fear of losing my mom in consequence of committing criminal acts (Hirshi, 272-273).
On a college application it asks the applicant if they’ve ever committed a crime. College was never not an option for me. My parents, like many others, have drilled it into me that without college, opportunities out in the real world are very limited. I’ve never seen a job application that didn’t have a blank for what college you went to. My parents were so proud when I got into every single college I applied to. I couldn’t go out to dinner without my dad telling somebody that I one-upped him by getting into all of my colleges. Too many times I’ve seen intelligent kids do something stupid and not be able to go to college. I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t let that be me. The commitment bond made me walk away from crime because there was too much at stake to lose and not go to college. I was committed to going to college, and halted a possible obstacle that could have destroyed that commitment.
My name is Catharine Fleming. I’ve lived in the Hamptons almost all my life, my four bedroom, 4 ?? bathroom, three story house now only holds two people, everybody in my town knows my golden retriever by his first name, and I have committed criminal acts. Given my fortunate life, there was no reason for me to steal. I could have bought the underwear without it affecting if I had a next meal or not. My birthmom used to steal in order to make sure my half sister had at least two meals a day. Economic factors, oppression, desperation, genetics and so on are all reasons for why people commit crimes; None of which I have been exposed to. There is not just one form of ?criminal’, nor will there ever be. I do not define myself as criminal, but as an experimental delinquent who has now grown up only to study the exact behavior that I exhibited as a youth.
Sixty-one years have passed since the debut of Twelve Angry Men and yet this black and white film still captures audience’s attention to this day. The American court system has […]
Star Wars: The Force Awakens American film director, J.J. Abrams set out to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and be based more on emotion than […]
For this paper I chose to watch Girl, Interrupted. This film, to me, is wonderful, and I will proceed to tell you why I think so too. I will also […]
Jurassic Park is a science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen, was released on June 11, 1993. The movie is based […]
Henry Ossawa Tarner was an American painter who lived between the years 1859 and 1937. His early paintings were associated with African Americans. In one of his most popular paintings, […]
Unbowed is a compelling and inspiring memoir of the first environmentalist African woman to have earned the honor of being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Maathai takes the reader […]
A person’s story or who they are is based on experiences they’ve faced throughout their lives. People are largely influenced by an abundant amount of external factors that help determine […]
The older and more non-childish phase of my life, the more aware I am of the person I have become and how the choices made myself and my family have […]
This semester, I have read a good number of books about biology and different biological processes. This book out of all the books I have read was the worst in […]
To someone on the outside, my life looked as bland and normal as a plain sheet of printer paper. I had two loving parents, a house far too large for […]