A significant amount of the early cross-sectional studies with the DIT examined the developmental indexes of age and education (Rest, et al., 1999). Based on this prior research resulting in 5,714 participants, Rest (1979) reported that the typical DIT score increases every time the level of education increases. In fact the author concluded that Moral judgment was more highly correlated to education than was age. As such, with prior research as a foundation involving large samples of adults, it is logical to anticipate that DIT P scores will be drastically and completely linked to education.
In their study, Rest et al. (1997) studied moral judgment by comparing a composite sample of 992 students at different education levels. These education levels included junior high, senior high, and college students in the United States and indicated that education is positively correlated with DIT scores.
Additionally Bay (2001) conducted a study involving 45 undergraduate business students in the United States. DIT was utilized to determine the level of moral development in the students. The study revealed that DIT P scores increased from freshman/sophomores years to senior year.
Likewise, in their study Elm et al. (2001) utilized DIT to determine the moral reasoning. This study involved 395 undergraduate and graduate business students. The participants attended Midwestern universities -- two private universities and two state universities. The findings revealed that the graduate students have higher degrees of moral reasoning than did the undergraduates. As such, Elm et al. suggested that in addition to higher education the higher levels of moral reasoning could also be attributed to age, maturity, experience, or any number of other dynamics.
Although the aforementioned studies found a positive correlation between higher education levels and higher moral reasoning/development, other studies have found no such correlation. For instance. Shaub (1994), asserted that additional formal education does not seem to be correlated with the level of moral reasoning found in participants. This particular study measured demographic variables against moral reasoning of auditors employed by the Big Six in addition to auditing students attending a university in the southwestern United States. The outcome of multiple regression found a negative correlation between formal education and moral reasoning for both samples. The negative sign indicated that the individual with more formal education has lower levels of moral reasoning.
In an even more comprehensive studym Etherington & Schulting's (1995) observed 100 Canadian CMAs and did not discover any compelling differences in the DIT P scores of four education subgroups (no degree, diploma, bachelors, and masters). Likewise, Sweeney's (1995) study of auditors found no difference in Pscores even after years of education. The findings of the Hill (1998) study involving 468 U.S. CMAs was inversed to traditional DIT/education trends: that is, the CMAs with bachelors degrees had P scores that were considerably higher than those masters degrees.
Moral Development and Job Position
Some past research concerning moral development related to the level in CPA firm variable has generally found moral development (measured by the DIT) to be positively correlated to hierarchal position. However, the majority of the research in this field has identified this relationship as negative. Such is the case with Ponemon (1990), which that the degree of moral reasoning of CPA practitioners were actually the highest amongst supervisors and the lowest amongst partners (Inversed-U shape). In this study Ponemon (1992), utilized DIT with a random sample of CPAs in public practice to examine their level of moral reasoning. The study found that the mean DIT P score of partners was much lower than the mean DIT P score of the staff accountants. Additionally, a study of the DIT P scores national firm managers and partners were participants, Ponemon and Gabhart (1990) discovered the mean DIT P score of managers considerably higher than the mean DIT P scores of the partners. Although this study concurred with past findings of a compelling relationship between mean DIT P scores and level in the CPA firm, a study conduct by Lampe (1992) found different results than past studies because it identified a positive relationship. To be exact, the mean DIT P score (M=34.49) of auditing students was notably lower than the mean DIT P score (M=41.90) of audit managers.
Sweeney (1995) investigated the moral growth of 314 auditors at various types of firms.
The findings of the research were consistent with past research and indicated a reduction in moral capacity with increasing positional level. Once the researcher eliminated the effects of gender and political ideology, positional level in the firm was not correlated with moral capacity. Furthermore research conducted more recently have questioned the negative or "Inverted-U" relationship between DIT P scores and hierarchal position. For instance, Bernardi and Arnold's (2004) longitudinal study involving auditors from five Big Six firms discovered that the normal level of moral development of the auditor, tended to decrease with promotion.
Ethics Courses and Moral Reasoning
The Enron scandal and the collapse of other companies involved in questionable accounting practices, changed the manner in which ethics was taught to accounting student. As such a great deal of the accounting programs now place an emphasis upon ethics in their curricula. According to some studies (Boyd, 1982) exposure to ethics courses has a positive influence on the moral reasoning ability of student. On the contrary other studies (St. Pierre,1990) have found that neither formal ethics courses nor the integration of ethics cases into the accounting classroom increase the degree of ethical reasoning.
Armstrong (1993) used DIT to determine whether ethics courses increased the moral growth of students. For the purposes of this study, senior accounting students who enrolled in the Ethics and Professionalism (E&P) course on the first day of class and on the last day of class were surveyed. The pre- and post-test were used to measure the improvement of moral education. The finding of the test were compared to the changed in P scores to pro- and post-tests of a control group enrolled in the mid-level accounting courses. There were 21 students participating in the study in the E&P group and 33 student participated in the control group at a public university in the United States. The results found that P scores in the E&P group pre-test was 49.5 and post-test was 57.3. Additionally, P scores in the control group pre-test and post test were 40.1 and 43.8 correspondingly. Armstrong deduced that an ethics course might be an effective way of increasing moral growth in students beyond what is likely to occur naturally. The researcher believed this to be particularly true particularly when the students have already taken ethics courses. The research is a proponent of ethics being taught in existing accounting courses and separate courses in accounting ethics and professionalism. Likewise, Shaub (1994) observed 91 accounting students and 207 auditors to assess if certain demographic variables have an effect on the degree of moral reasoning measured by the DIT. The results indicated that the completion of an ethics course is notably related to higher degrees of the moral reasoning of in both samples.
Furthermore Sweeny (1995) utilized DIT to determine the ethical judgment of auditors. Auditors in the Midwest of the United States were surveyed. Overall, 340 auditors completed the survey, out of the 340-314 were useable. The findings of the survey indicate a mean DIT P score for 44 of the auditors who had taken an ethics course this score was greater than the mean DIT P score of 42.0 for those auditors who had not taken an ethics course.
A study conducted by Green (1997) examined the correlation between exposing students to the AICPA code of conduct and their degree of moral reasoning. For the purposes of the study, data was taken from 32 accounting students at the end of an auditing class. In addition data was collected from 27 business students enrolled in the Managerial Accounting course. The study investigated the impact an auditing class could have on the moral growth of students. The study concluded that in exploring the degree of moral reasoning of senior-level students, major disparities were present between the accounting and non-accounting students. The main difference seems to be the auditing course completed by the senior accounting students.
Although many studies have found a link between ethics courses and improved moral reasoning Ponemon (1993), found that neither business ethics courses nor the incorporation of ethics cases into the accounting classroom had any impact upon the moral reasoning skills of accounting students. This study focused on the effect of ethics interventions on the ethical development and ethical behavior of accounting students / These interventions were integrated into a one-semester introductory auditing course at both the undergraduate and graduate level. For the purposes of this study, ethics interventions had as a foundation the review and discussion of ethics cases determined by a well-known pedagogical framework over the first 10 weeks of a single academic semester. The effectiveness of these interventions was tested in the following two ways.