Exploring Variables that Affect Moral Development of Working Professionals

Exploring Variables that Affect Moral Development of Working Professionals

Barbara J.A.M.G. Armenta (Capella University, Minneapolis, MN, USA), Kathleen M. Hargiss (Colorado Technical University, Colorado Springs, CO, USA) and Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, Oceanside, CA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSITA.2016010101
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The increase of unethical behavior in the workplace has encouraged contemporary researchers to focus their research efforts on exploring moral development of employees in the business sector. It is thought that moral development may be a crucial driver of ethical decision making, while morality may be affected by a range of variables. In this study, the impact of higher education, ethical education, and work experience on moral development of licensed real-estate agents is examined. Moreover, the impact of higher education on an individual's moral development to a higher level of Kohlberg's theory of moral development is evaluated. The results of the study suggest that the variables of higher education, ethical education, and work experience showed no significant impact or increase of moral development of real-estate agents. The findings imply that the level of moral reasoning of real-estate agents service their occupations ethical requirements.
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In terms of historical timeline, many factors have been studied that are believed to impact moral development, which is presumed to influence ethical decision making in one way or another (Curtis, Conover, & Chui, 2012; Mujtaba, Cavico, McCartney, & DiPaolo, 2009; Steele, Branson, & Martin, 2011). Previous studies on moral development have examined and recognized education as an influencing factor of moral development. However, many studies on whether moral development is affected by obtaining additional education are limited or inadequate due to the use of only college students as population for study (Bouhmama, 1988; Cummings, Maddux, & Cladianos, 2010; Kiser, Morrison, & Craven, 2009; Steele et al., 2011). In the last few decades, more than a quarter of studies investigating business ethics have relied on a population made up of college students only (Albaum & Peterson, 2006). Studies using a variety of measuring instruments to examine the relation between higher education and moral development have shown a relative increase of moral reasoning (Cummings et al., 2010, Maeda, Thoma, & Bebeau, 2009, & Mujtaba et al., 2009; Rest & Thoma, 1985). Still, in terms of using college student groups, studying the impact of additional education on moral reasoning has yielded quite conflicting results.

Business ethics is a topic that has been given much attention from those in the business sector and researchers in the last few decades due to the increase of unethical behavior in the work environment (Yusoff, Salleh, Zakaria, Nair, Vadeveloo, & Luqman, 2011). Chan, Fung, and Yau (2010) suggested that the global financial crisis of 2008 was the catalyst for the increase of research oriented on studying business ethics intensively. Finding variables that impact an individual's ethical decision making may provide businesses with knowledge on how to reduce unwanted behavior and inspire appropriate conduct in the workplace.

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