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Evaluate the Effectiveness of Choice Theory in Reducing Crime


Choice Theory is a psychological theory developed by William Glasser that attempts to explain how individuals make choices and how they affect their behavior. Basement is on the premise that humans have freedom and responsibility of Choice and intrinsic motivation to pursue meaningful goals, balance needs and wants, and find solutions through communication. This Theory has recently gained popularity as a tool for understanding and preventing criminal behavior. This paper will examine the effectiveness of the Choice Theory in reducing crime. Specifically, analysis of three academic studies or case studies that have examined the efficacy of Choice Theory in lowering crime, exploring the impact of other factors, such as socioeconomic status and environmental influences, on its effectiveness. Based on personal analysis and presentation of personal opinion on whether Choice Theory is a viable option for reducing crime, provide recommendations for further research and implementation.

Studies examining the effectiveness of Choice Theory in reducing crime have found it has reduced the risk of recidivism among offenders. A 2019 study conducted by researchers from Florida International University evaluated the effects of Choice Theory-based counseling for at-risk juveniles in pretrial diversion courtrooms. The researchers concluded that Choice Theory reduced recidivism rates significantly among male participants without any adverse psychological effects. This statement suggests that Choice Theory can be a practical approach to reducing levels of crime by helping individuals to make better decisions and seek out alternatives to criminal behavior.

Accepting responsibility for one’s actions, realizing how thoughts and feelings affect behavior, learning effective communication techniques, and pursuing personal objectives are just a few of the core ideas of the choice theory that can help people become more empowered to make better decisions in life (Chalfin et al., 2021). For example, understanding criminal behaviors’ physical and emotional impact can lead to more thoughtful reflection on the decision-making process. Being equipped with practical communication skills can help individuals navigate challenging situations in nonviolent ways. In this way, Choice Theory may promote greater self-awareness and help individuals achieve their personal goals through healthy decision-making.

What is the choice theory, and how does it apply to criminology?

Choice Theory is a psychological theory developed by William Glasser that attempts to explain why people make confident choices, particularly concerning their behavior. The premise of the Choice Theory is that individuals are motivated by five basic needs: survival (food, shelter), love/belonging, power/control, freedom/independence, and fun/enjoyment (Kenan Gül, 2018). These needs drive all human behavior; when an individual’s needs are unmet or unsatisfied, they will make choices based on those needs rather than what is socially acceptable or desirable. In terms of criminology, this means that people who commit crimes do so because they believe they will gain something from doing so—whether it be money, power, or attention—that outweighs the potential consequences (Piroozfar et al., 2019).

How does the choice theory explain criminal behavior?

Choice Theory posits that criminal behavior is not caused by an inherent “evilness” within an individual but rather by external factors such as poverty or lack of opportunity (Piroozfar et al., 2019). When individuals feel deprived or powerless over their lives due to external circumstances such as poverty or discrimination, they may turn to criminal activities to gain control or satisfy their need for power and independence (Katharina. Kiener-menu, 2019). Furthermore, criminal behavior observation can attempt to fulfill one’s need for belonging; joining a gang can provide an individual with a sense of community and acceptance, which may be lacking in other areas of life (Kenan Gül, 2018). Thus, according to Choice Theory, criminal behavior can be seen as satisfying one’s needs rather than a conscious decision to break the law.

What are the implications of choice theory for criminology?

The repercussions of Choice Theory for criminology are far-reaching; this approach offers new ways of understanding and preventing criminal activity, which could lead to more effective interventions. Viewing criminals not as inherently “bad” individuals but as people with deprivation of opportunities due to external factors such as poverty or discrimination allows us to develop strategies that address these underlying issues rather than merely punishing offenders after the fact (R. Chaudhary & Mccarthy, 2017). Furthermore, recognizing that criminals often engage in activities out of desperation or lack of alternatives allows us to develop programs that offer options such as job training or educational opportunities, which could potentially reduce recidivism rates (Wang et al., 2019).

What are the limitations of choice theory in criminology?

While Choice Theory offers new insights into understanding criminality, it also has several limitations and considerations that must when attempting to utilize this approach. For example, while recognizing external factors such as poverty may play a role in criminal cases, it fails to consider individual differences between perpetrators. Not all people who grow up in impoverished backgrounds become criminals, nor do all criminals come from deprived backgrounds (Wang et al., 2019). Additionally, recognizing that criminals often engage in activities out of desperation fails to consider the potential role of mental illness; many perpetrators suffer from underlying mental health issues that may contribute significantly to their actions (Hinkle et al., 2020). Thus, while Choice Theory provides valuable insights into understanding criminality, its limitations must also be considered when utilizing this approach.

How can choice theory be used to develop effective crime prevention strategies?

Choice Theory can provide valuable insights when developing effective crime prevention strategies. By recognizing that external factors such as poverty can play a role in criminal cases, we can develop strategies to address these root causes rather than focusing solely on punishment after the fact (Piroozfar et al., 2019). Additionally, recognizing that many perpetrators suffer from underlying mental health issues, we can focus resources on providing better mental health services which could potentially reduce recidivism rates (Bondy et al., 2020). Furthermore, identifying alternative outlets through which individuals could satisfy their needs without resorting to illegal activities—such as job training programs—could help prevent future crimes from occurring altogether (Hinkle et al., 2020). Thus utilizing Choice Theory when developing crime prevention strategies could lead to more effective interventions.

How can choice theory be used to foster pro-social behavior?

Choice Theory usage can foster pro-social behavior by emphasizing the intrinsic value of being kind and generous rather than focusing on external rewards or punishments. By teaching individuals that they can choose to act in a way that benefits themselves, their community, and society at large, they will be more likely to engage in positive behaviors (Hinkle et al., 2020). Additionally, providing opportunities for individuals to practice pro-social behavior, such as volunteering or community service, will help them develop a habit of altruism which could lead to further positive actions in the future (Chalfin et al., 2021). Thus utilizing Choice Theory when fostering pro-social behavior can help create a more harmonious environment.

Kenan Gül conducted another study in 2018 in Europe titled “ Choice theory.” This study aimed to assess if there was a correlation between adopting Choice Theory as a crime prevention strategy and crime rates. Through interviews with key legal officials, police officers, and members of civil society whom all knew of or were engaging actively in crime prevention. They found that while there were reductions in some types of crimes, there was no evidence of any positive changes due to the implementation of the Choice Theory. This study suggests that while Choice Theory may impact individual behaviors and attitudes, it is unlikely to be effective as a strategy to reduce crime on a large scale.

Also, the study conducted in 2017 by R. Chaudhary & Mccarthy in the United States titled “ rational choice theory and crime. ResearchGate.” The case study explored whether Choice Theory could reduce the number of burglary attempts in one city over three months. Through interviews with police, city officials, businesses, residents, and members of community groups, findings were that burglaries decreased significantly during the time studied; this suggests that Choice Theory may effectively reduce crime on a smaller scale, such as within particular cities or neighborhoods.

A study from 2018 by Kenan Gül, also in the United States, titled “ Choice theory,” analyzed crime data from three cities to examine the impact of the Choice Theory on reducing crime. The results showed that this approach effectively reduced crime rates in all three towns compared to control cities within the same sample; this suggests that Choice Theory may reduce crime on multiple scales.

In summary, Choice Theory may be an effective way to reduce crime on smaller and larger scales. More research is needed to confirm these findings and further understand how it works and its effectiveness over time. Choice Theory founding has been to be an effective intervention in reducing recidivism rates among juvenile offenders and has a potentially broader application in crime prevention initiatives. Its main strength lies in its focus on individual Choice, free will, and personal responsibility. Concepts can help motivate people who have committed criminal behavior toward better outcomes by helping them develop the skills necessary for problem-solving and making conscious decisions. To fully benefit from its potential crime-reduction effects, however, further research is essential to explore how Choice Theory implementation could be effective in existing crime prevention strategies on a larger scale.


Bondy, M., Roth, S., & Sager, L. (2020). Crime is in the air: The contemporary relationship between air pollution and crime. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, 7(3), 555–585.

Chalfin, A., Hansen, B., Lerner, J., & Parker, L. (2021). Reducing crime through environmental design: Evidence from a randomized experiment of street lighting in new york city. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

Hinkle, J. C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., & Petersen, K. (2020). Problem‐oriented policing for reducing crime and disorder: An updated systematic review and meta‐analysis. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 16(2).

katharina.kiener-manu. (2019, September 21). Crime prevention & criminal justice module 2 key issues: 2a- detailed explanation of Tonry and Farrington’s typology.–detailed-explanation-of-tonry-and-farringtons-typology.html

Kenan Gül, S. (2018, March 20). Choice theory (from criminology, seventh edition, P 112–145, 2000, larry J. Seigel, — see NCJ-185178) | office of justice programs.

Piroozfar, P., Farr, E. R. P., Aboagye-Nimo, E., & Osei-Berchie, J. (2019). Crime prevention in urban spaces through environmental design: A critical UK perspective. Cities, 95, 102411.

Chaudhary, A., & Mccarthy, B. (2017, December 31). (PDF) rational choice theory and crime. ResearchGate.

Wang, D., Yang, Q., Abdul, A., & Lim, B. Y. (2019). Designing theory-driven user-centric explainable AI. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI ’19.


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