Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 38, Issue 1–2, pp 179–192 | Cite as

Tapping the Source of Moral Approbation: The Moral Referent Group

  • Lori Verstegen Ryan
  • Mark A. Ciavarella
Article

Abstract

A recent contribution to the moral decision-making literature argues that individuals' moral behavior is partially shaped by the amount of moral approbation they expect to receive from their moral referent groups (Jones and Ryan, 1997). This paper examines the nature and content of these previously underexamined sources of moral guidance. In an open-ended empirical test of undergraduate business students (n = 369), we found that 1) significant differences exist between individuals' moral referent groups and work-related referent groups, 2) females were more likely than males to include themselves in their moral referent groups, 3) females were more likely than males to be designated as moral referents, and 4) females were more likely to be included in moral referent groups than in work-related referent groups. The paper also includes a general description of the membership of these business subjects' moral referent groups and presents a variety of suggestions for future research.

gender differences moral approbation moral decision making moral referent groups 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Blasi, A.: 1984, ‘Moral Identity: Its Role in Moral Functioning', in W. M. Kurtines and J. L. Gewirtz (eds.), Morality, Moral Behavior, and Moral Development ( John Wiley and Sons, New York), pp. 128–139.Google Scholar
  2. Bornstein, R. F.: 1997, ‘Long-term Retest Reliability of Interpersonal Dependency Inventory Scores in College Students,' Assessment 4, 359–364.Google Scholar
  3. Bornstein, R. F., S. C. Rossner and E. L. Hill: 1994, ‘Retest Reliability of Scores on Objective and Projective Measures of Dependency: Relationship to Life Events and Interest Interval’, Journal of Personality Assessment 62, 398–415.Google Scholar
  4. Bronfenbrenner, U.: 1962, ‘The Role of Age, Sex, Class, and Culture in Studies of Moral Development,' in S. W. Cook (ed.), Review of Recent Research Bearing on Religious and Character Formation (Religious Education Association, New York), pp. S3-S17.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, B. P.: 1962, ‘The Process of Choosing a Reference Group', in J. H. Criswell, H. Solomon and P. Suppes (eds.), Mathematical Methods in Small Group Processes (Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA), pp. 101–118.Google Scholar
  6. Denzin, N. K.: 1966, ‘The Significant Others of a College Population’, Sociological Quarterly 7, 298–310.Google Scholar
  7. Edwards, A. L.: 1959, Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (Manual) (Psychology Corporation, New York).Google Scholar
  8. Epstein, S.: 1973, ‘The Self-concept Revisited: Or a Theory of a Theory’, American Psychologist 28(5), 404–416.Google Scholar
  9. Franke, G. R., D. F. Crown and D. F. Spake: 1997, ‘Gender Differences in Ethical Perceptions of Business Practices: A Social Role Theory Perspective’, Journal of Applied Psychology 82, 920–934.Google Scholar
  10. Glover, S. H., M. A. Bumpus, J. E. Logan and J. R. Ciesla: 1997, ‘Re-examining the Influence of Individual Values on Ethical Decision Making’, Journal of Business Ethics 16, 1319–1329.Google Scholar
  11. Henry, R. M.: 1983, The Psychodynamic Foundations of Morality (S. Karger, New York).Google Scholar
  12. Hirschfeld, R. M., G. L. Klerman, H. G. Gough, J. Barrett, S. J. Korchin and P. Chodoff: 1977, ‘A Measure of Interpersonal Dependency’, Journal of Personality Assessment 41, 610–618.Google Scholar
  13. Hoffman, M.: 1979, ‘Development of Moral Thought, Feeling, and Behavior’, American Psychologist 34: 958–966.Google Scholar
  14. Hyman, H. H.: 1980/1942, The Psychology of Status (New York Times Company, New York).Google Scholar
  15. Jones, T. M. and L. V. Ryan: 1997, ‘The Link between Ethical Judgment and Action in Organizations: A Moral Approbation Approach’, Organization Science 8, 663–680.Google Scholar
  16. Jones, T. M. and L. V. Ryan: 1998, ‘The Effect of Organizational Forces on Individual Morality: Judgment, Moral Approbation, and Behavior’, Business Ethics Quarterly 8, 431–445.Google Scholar
  17. Kelley, H. H.: 1952, ‘Two Functions of Reference Groups', in G. E. Swanson, T. M. Newcomb, and E. L. Hartley (eds.), Readings in Social Psychology (Henry Holt, New York), pp. 410–414.Google Scholar
  18. Kohlberg, L.: 1969, ‘Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive-developmental Approach to Socialization', in D. A. Goslin (ed.), Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research (Rand McNally, Chicago), pp. 347–480Google Scholar
  19. Kulik, C. T. and M. L. Ambrose: 1992, ‘Personal and Situational Determinants of Referent Choice’, Academy of Management Review 17, 212–237.Google Scholar
  20. Lau, R. R.: 1989, ‘Individual and Contextual Influences on Group Identification’, Social Psychology Quarterly 52(3), 220–233.Google Scholar
  21. Malinowski, C. and K. A. Berger: 1996, ‘Undergraduate Student Attitudes about Hypothetical Marketing Dilemmas’, Journal of Business Ethics 15, 525–535.Google Scholar
  22. Merton, R. K.: 1957, Social Theory and Social Structure (Free Press, Glencoe, IL).Google Scholar
  23. Murgatroyd, D. and E. I. Gavurin: 1975, ‘Comparisons of Edwards Personal Preference Schedule Norms with Recent College Samples’, Journal of Psychology 91, 71–76.Google Scholar
  24. Nadler, A.: 1997, ‘Personality and Help Seeking: Autonomous versus Dependent Seeking of Help', in G. R. Pierce, B. Lakey, I. G. Sarason and B. R. Sarason (eds.), Sourcebook of Social Support and Personality (Plenum Press, New York), pp. 379–407.Google Scholar
  25. Newcomb, T. M.: 1950, Social Psychology (Dryden Press, New York).Google Scholar
  26. Randall, D. M. and A. M. Gibson: 1990, ‘Methodology in Business Ethics Research: A Review and Critical Assessment’, Journal of Business Ethics 9, 457–471.Google Scholar
  27. Rest, J. R.: 1986, Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory (Praeger, New York).Google Scholar
  28. Ryan, L. V. and C. M. Riordan: 2000, ‘The Development of a Measure of Desired Moral Approbation’, Educational and Psychological Measurement 60, 448–462.Google Scholar
  29. Sexton, D. L. and N. Bowman-Upton: 1990, ‘Female and Male Entrepreneurs: Psychological Characteristics and Their Role in Gender-related Discrimination’, Journal of Business Venturing 5, 29–36.Google Scholar
  30. Shah, P. P.: 1998, ‘Who are Employees' Social Referents? Using a Network Perspective to Determine Referent Others’, Academy of Management Journal 41, 249–268.Google Scholar
  31. Thoma, S. J. and J. R. Rest: 1986, ‘Moral Judgment, Behavior, Decision Making, and Attitudes', in J. R. Rest (ed.), Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory (Praeger, New York), pp. 133–175.Google Scholar
  32. Thorson, J. A. and F. C. Powell: 1992, ‘Vagaries of College Norms for the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule’, Psychological Reports 70, 943–946.Google Scholar
  33. Waterman, A. S.: 1988, ‘On the Uses of Psychological Theory and Research in the Process of Ethical Inquiry’, Psychological Bulletin 103(3), 283–298.Google Scholar
  34. White, F. A.: 1996a, ‘Sources of Influence in Moral Thought: The New Moral Authority Scale’, Journal of Moral Education 25(4), 421–439.Google Scholar
  35. White, F. A.: 1996b, ‘Family Processes as Predictors of Adolescents' Preferences for Ascribed Sources of Moral Authority: A Proposed Model’, Adolescence 31(121), 133–144.Google Scholar
  36. Williams, M. A.: 1970, ‘Reference Groups: A Review and Commentary’, Sociological Quarterly 11, 545–554.Google Scholar
  37. Young, J. W. and L. R. Ferguson: 1979, ‘Developmental Changes through Adolescence in the Spontaneous Nomination of Reference Groups as a Function of Decision Content’, Journal of Youth and Adolescence 8(2), 239–252.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lori Verstegen Ryan
    • 1
  • Mark A. Ciavarella
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Management, College of Business AdministrationSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of Management, Terry College of BusinessUniversity of GeorgiaAthensU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations