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Bowlby, J. (1944). Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves: Their Characters and Home-Life. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 25:19-53.

(1944). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 25:19-53

Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves: Their Characters and Home-Life

John Bowlby


There are probably few people whose work lies outside the courts who realize that in nine criminal cases out of ten the charge is theft. During 1938 for instance there were about 78, 500 persons found guilty of an indictable offence, a category which excludes drunkenness, traffic offences and other minor delinquencies. Of these over 56, 000 (or 72 per cent.) were found guilty of larceny and another 16, 000 (or 20 per cent.) found guilty of breaking and entering, frauds or receiving stolen goods. This leaves only 6, 500 (or 8 per cent.) for all other offences.

Another fact perhaps little realized is that for some years past exactly half of those found guilty have been under 21 years of age and that over one-sixth of the total were under 14. Indeed of all age-groups in the population it is the thirteen-year-olds who appear most often in court. Thus theft, like rheumatic fever, is a disease of childhood and adolescence, and, as in rheumatic fever, attacks in later life are frequently in the nature of recurrences.

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