Characteristics and correlates of stealing in college students

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Jon E Grant
  • Brian L Odlaug
  • Katherine Lust
  • Gary Christenson

BACKGROUND: Stealing is a fairly common behaviour among young adults. Understanding the potential associations and characteristics of individuals who steal may help educational institutions, health services and young people themselves resolve difficulties before the behaviour impacts on their academic performance and health.

AIMS: We aim to test the hypothesis that desires to steal among students would be associated with worse academic achievements and higher rates of mood and impulse control disorders.

METHODS: One thousand eight hundred and five students completed the College Student Computer User Survey online and were included in this analysis at a large Midwestern United States University. Responders were grouped according to self-reported stealing urges and behaviours and were compared on measures of psychosocial function, mental health disorders and impulsivity.

RESULTS: Urges to steal were associated with worse depressive symptoms, higher levels of perceived stress and a number of psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder and multiple disorders of impulse control (kleptomania, compulsive sexual behaviour, skin picking, trichotillomania and compulsive buying). Conclusions and implications for practice and/or future research These following data indicate that stealing for many college students may be considered within a spectrum of impulsive behaviours. Illegal behaviours among students point to mental health difficulties among them. Our findings may provide clinicians, researchers and health professionals with a clearer picture of a range of impulsive behaviours among college students and promote treatment for this group. Our findings could also inform preventative approaches to impulsive problems in young adults.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)101-109
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

ID: 161081595