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    A Test of the Selection-Socialization Theory in Moral...
    research summary posted May 7, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.04 Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions 
    A Test of the Selection-Socialization Theory in Moral Reasoning of CPAs in Industry Practice
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are useful for understanding what factors are influential in the moral development of CPAs. Practitioners should consider the results of this study when making hiring and promotion decisions. Results may also be informative to the development of ethical training programs.


    Abdolmohammadi, M. J. and D. L. Ariail. 2009. A Test of the Selection-Socialization Theory in Moral Reasoning of CPAs in Industry Practice. Behavioral Research in Accounting 21 (2): 1-12.

    moral development; defining issues test (DIT), selection-socialization, Inverted-U
    Purpose of the Study:

    Past research on the moral reasoning of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) has indicated that the the moral reasoning of CPAs in public accounting appears to increase from the senior to manager level but then decrease from the manager to the partner level (referred to as an Inverted-U Phenomenon). This phenomenon is consistent with Selection-Socialization Theory, which predicts that individuals at superior levels (e.g. partners) often promote employees with attributes similar to their own. This paper examines the existence of this phenomenon by collecting information on the moral development of CPAs in both industry and public practice.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected data (sometime prior to 2009) from 273 practicing CPAs. To measure their moral development, participants were asked to fill out the Defining Issues Test (DIT). The DIT is a generic instrument commonly used in research to determine an individual’s moral development within six stages. The six stages range from low levels of moral reasoning, characterized by self-interest, to higher levels characterized, by law abidance and adherence to universal principles of justice and human rights.

    • The authors do not find significant differences in the moral reasoning between accountants of different rank and thus, no evidence of the Inverted-U Phenomenon suggested by prior research.
    • The authors also did not find differences in moral reasoning between CPAs in industry and those in public practice.
    • Although there is no indication that gender or ethical training affects CPAs’ moral reasoning, the authors do find that CPAs with graduate degrees scored higher in moral reasoning than those with only undergraduate degrees and that politically moderate or liberal CPAs scored higher than conservatives.
    Independence & Ethics
    Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions
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