HCBE Faculty Articles

The Relationship of Ethics Education to the Moral Development of Accounting Students

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International Journal of Accounting Information Sciences and Leadership

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Ethical behavior and moral judgment are fundamental issues facing the accounting profession today. Changes in the ethical culture of accounting have brought about a crisis of ethical misconduct in the profession. External forces for better ethics in accounting, represented by Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) legislation, and internal forces, represented by increased educational coverage encouraged by state societies and the AACSB, are attempts to influence the current crisis. Research in the field of ethics and moral judgment in the accounting profession continues as researchers continue to examine factors influencing the ethical reasoning abilities of accountants and accounting students. The results of these studies may assist accounting schools and the accounting profession in controlling and improving the ethical orientation of the accounting profession. This study examines the possible relationship of ethics education and moral reasoning of undergraduate and graduate accounting students. Limited previous research on these two variables has provided mixed results. This study examined undergraduate and graduate accounting students at six colleges and universities in the upper mid-west and southern region of the United States. The variable of ethics was measured with Rest's DIT-2 instrument and ethical education by completed ethics courses. The results of this study demonstrate a significant relationship between ethics education and the moral reasoning of accounting students. However, the results were not in the expected direction, with the accounting students completing ethics education having a significant lower level than the accounting students without ethics education. In addition, this research found that accounting students who are 22 years of age or younger possess higher levels of ethical reasoning than accounting students who are older than 22 years of age. However, the findings show that there are no significant differences in the ethical maturity levels of accounting students when grouped by gender and education level. These findings support the need for further research into determining factors influencing moral judgment in undergraduate and graduate accounting students.





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