HCBE Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship


Frank Cavico

Committee Member

Albert Williams

Committee Member

Timothy McCartney


Several significant breaches of ethics in the past few years have created renewed interest in the study of moral judgment. The examples used in this study include sub-prime lending, the Madoff investment scandal, and the torture of suspects in U.S. custody.

The Cognitive Moral Development (CMD) theory was developed by Lawrence Kohlberg in 1969. Effectively, Kohlberg determined there were clearly defined stages of moral development in children--how they develop a sense of right, wrong, and justice. He expanded his research to adults and determined that human beings progressed through each of the six stages without skipping a stage and without reverting to a previous stage.

James Rest later developed a survey instrument, the Defining Issues Test (DIT), designed to assess the stages of development, or moral maturity, of an individual without the lengthy interview process employed by Kohlberg in his research. Over 1,000 studies have since used the DIT.

The DIT will be used in combination with a demographic survey to test the variables of educational level, age, gender, and ethical training against moral maturity. Research has provided mixed results for these variables when applied to the public sector.

This study will compare the moral maturity of elected officials with that of appointed city managers who serve at the will of these elected officials. This paper will provide a discussion of the ethical concerns facing elected officials and appointed city managers as well as the potential hazards to good decision-making presented by differences in moral maturity, if they exist. The relationship of moral maturity and the other variables will also be discussed. Recommendations for public administrators and future research will be presented.

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