Ronald Clarke and Derek Cornish have developed, in 1980, the rational choice theory that examined the rational component to criminal events. This theory uses the econometric models of expected utility to explain that the offenders act deliberately when the probable cost becomes surpassed by the personal gain. The rational choice theory try to analyze and explain the particular contexts that lead to criminal decisions and criminal events.
The rational choice theory applied to juvenile delinquency helps more in analyzing the reasons that lead to decision to offend. The factors that influence the juvenile offending decisions can be various such that: social relationships, personal material gain, moral convictions.
The rational choice model is built on 6 basic motives: opportunity, material gain, moral beliefs, informal sanctions, affective bonds, certainty of punishments. The construction of rational choice model takes also in consideration the following sub factors, such that: gender and family structure.
There exists studies that emphasize the fact that the level of influence of certainty of punishment motive is low, often having no effect in offending decision making. It was observed that the gender plays an important role in offending decision, as well as the peer involvement and the level of family supervision. The studies revealed that the moral convictions have the greatest level of influence.
The conducted studies regarding the offending decisions and offending acts have indicated that the level of consideration of certainty of punishment is very low compared to the level of social considerations.