Study: Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

By Debra Viadero — October 30, 2009 1 min read
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The next time you find yourself thinking, “kids will be kids,” think again. Survey results released yesterday by the Josephson Institute on Ethics suggest that kids who cheat in high school are far more likely than non-cheaters to lie to their spouses, bosses, and employees when they grow up.

The results are based on a 2008 survey of nearly 7,000 people in five age groups: 17 and under, 18-24, 25-40, 41-50, and over 50. The study found, first of all, that younger generations are far more likely to behave dishonestly than older generations—or at least to admit it to researchers. Among high schoolers, 64% said they had cheated on an exam in 2008, 42% admitted lying to save money, and 30% copped to having stolen something from a store.

The study also found that, regardless of how old they are now, people who cheated in high school were three times more likely to lie to a customer (20% vs. 6%) or inflate an insurance claim (6% vs. 2%) and more than twice as likely to inflate an expense claim (10% vs. 4%) than people who never cheated in high school. The high school cheaters were also twice as likely to lie to or deceive their boss (20% vs. 10%) or lie about their address to get a child into a better school (29% vs. 15%) and one-and-a-half times more likely to lie to spouse or significant other (35% vs. 22%) or cheat on taxes (18% vs. 13%).

If that’s not reason enough to boost character education efforts in schools, here’s another: A growing number of studies are beginning to suggest that some character education programs can improve kids’ academic achievement, too.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.