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Parenting style, academic dishonesty, and infidelity in college students.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether a significant correlation existed between parental authoritativeness and adult children's attitudes towards academic dishonesty and infidelity. The researchers recruited 109 psychology students and used survey measures to test their hypothesis. An analysis of the data revealed a significant negative correlation between parental strictness/supervision and attitudes towards infidelity. The researchers discuss these findings in the context of previous research on authoritative parenting.

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According to work by Baumrind and Maccoby and Martin (as cited in Baumrind, 2005), parenting styles are categorized along two dimensions: the degree of parental warmth and involvement, and the degree of parental strictness and supervision. The authoritative parenting style is one in which parents display both a high degree of warmth and involvement and a high degree of strictness and supervision. This is in contrast with the authoritarian parenting style, characterized by low warmth/involvement and high strictness/supervision; the permissive parenting style, characterized by high warmth/involvement and low strictness/supervision; and the neglectful parenting style, characterized by low warmth/involvement and low strictness/supervision.

The effects of parenting styles on children's development are well-documented. Authoritative parenting has been associated with numerous positive outcomes in children. For example, Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, and Dornbusch (1991) found a significant positive correlation between authoritative parenting and levels of positive adjustment and psychosocial development. Furthermore, Lamborn et al. found a significant negative correlation between authoritative parenting and levels of problem behavior and psychological and physical pathology. Slicker (1998) found a significant positive correlation between authoritative parenting and high school seniors' positive behavioral adjustment, such that an increase in authoritative parenting was related to lower rates of alcohol use and deviant behaviors. Furthermore, Slicker found a significant positive correlation between neglectful parenting and children's negative behavioral adjustment. These findings, as well as others, lend support to the idea that authoritative parenting exerts a protective influence on children, steering them away from deviant behavior.

Researchers appear to be steadfast in their support for authoritative parenting and its ability to keep children from acting out in deviant ways. The effectiveness of authoritative parenting to deter deviant behavior may lie in its ability to ingrain children with a sense of self-control. Patock-Peckham, Cheong, Balhorn, and Nagoshi (2001) found a significant positive correlation between mothers' authoritativeness and adult daughters' ability to self-regulate. Furthermore, Patock-Peckham et al. found a significant negative correlation between mothers' permissiveness and adult daughters' ability to self-regulate. Similar trends were found for fathers' parenting styles and adult sons' self-regulatory ability.

Authoritative parenting may also protect against deviance via social learning. The high degree of warmth and involvement, coupled with the high degree of strictness and supervision characteristic of authoritative parenting may encourage children to identify with their parents, thereby facilitating the transmission of authoritative parents' prosocial values. As children identify themselves more with their authoritative parents and accept their parents' values, the likelihood of their identifying with deviant peer groups decreases, as does the likelihood that they will engage in deviant behavior.

Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, and Conger (1991) found a significant positive correlation between inept parenting and the development of a coercive interpersonal style among adolescents. In addition, there was a significant positive correlation between a coercive interpersonal style and problems in school. Furthermore, there was a significant positive correlation between identification with parents and children's adoption of prosocial values, and a significant negative correlation between adoption of prosocial values and problems at school. Finally, there was a significant negative correlation between identification with parents and association with deviant peer groups.

While researchers have exhaustively studied the relationships between authoritative parenting and types of deviant behaviors in children, there is a dearth of research on the relationship between authoritative parenting and children's proclivity toward academic dishonesty and romantic infidelity. Based on a review of the literature, it follows that authoritative parenting would be associated with a decrease in rates of academic dishonesty and romantic infidelity, as it is with other deviant behaviors. However, the lack of sufficient research on the topic leaves such reasoning in the realm of speculation.

The literature reveals some identifiable similarities between the mechanisms that promote deviance and those that promote academic dishonesty. For example, previous research has highlighted the importance of prosocial values in deterring academic dishonesty. Jensen, Arnett, Feldman, and Cauffman (2002) found that high school and college students who reported higher levels of tolerance towards deviant behavior also reported higher levels of tolerance towards cheating and increased rates of academic dishonesty. Bloodgood, Turnley, and Mudrack (2008) found a significant negative correlation between both religiosity and ethics and incidents of cheating among college students. These findings highlight the importance of prosocial values as a deterrent against academic dishonesty.

Previous research has also demonstrated the importance of social learning in the transmission of pro-cheating attitudes. Michaels and Miethe (1989) found a significant positive correlation between both peer- and self-reported levels of pro-cheating attitudes and self-reported incidents of cheating among college students. Kisamore, Stone, and Jawahar (2007) found that college students' perception of the frequency of peer cheating significantly predicted increased self-reports of academic dishonesty.

Thus, peer relationships appear to play a part in the transmission of pro-cheating attitudes, thereby increasing the likelihood that students will engage in academic dishonesty. It follows that parental relationships would also be an important factor in students' decisions to cheat, as parents are integral in the transmission of attitudes and values. In this case, authoritative parenting should exert an inhibitory influence on students' decision to cheat, similar to the one exerted on students' decision to engage with deviant peers and act out in deviant ways.

Research links academic dishonesty and interpersonal dishonesty. Zimny, Robertson, and Bartoszek (2008) examined correlates of academic and personal dishonesty--defined as dishonesty in any type of personal relationship--among college students. They found a significant positive correlation between academic and personal dishonesty. Furthermore, personal dishonesty accounted for 44.6% of the variance in academic dishonesty.

It makes sense that people who are likely to violate codes of honesty in academic settings would also be likely to violate codes of honesty in personal relationships. Research on infidelity has shown that, as in the case of academic dishonesty and other deviant behaviors, prosocial values are at odds with attitudes that support infidelity. Reiss, Anderson, and Sponaugle (1980) found that religiosity had a significant negative effect on premarital sexual permissiveness, and premarital sexual permissiveness had a significant positive effect on extramarital sexual permissiveness among married couples. There is also some evidence to suggest that attitudes that support infidelity are related to attitudes that support general deviance. Feldman, Cauffman, Jensen, and Arnett (2000) found a significant positive correlation between permissive attitudes towards sexual betrayal and permissive attitudes towards general deviance.

A review of the literature also reveals the influence of social learning in the formation of attitudes towards romantic relationships and the decision to commit infidelity. Whisman and Snyder (2007) found that being sexually abused significantly predicted marital infidelity among adult women. This finding suggests a transmission of sexual attitudes through negative social interactions and experiences. It follows that parents, being a primary source of socialization, would also have some influence on the decision to commit infidelity. Taris, Semin, and Bok (1998) found that adolescents who reported higher quality interactions with their mothers were more likely to adopt their mothers' attitudes towards sexual permissiveness.

The present study attempted to fill the gap in the existing research by examining the potential relationships between parenting styles, academic dishonesty, and infidelity. Studies (e.g., Feldman et al, 2000; Jensen et al., 2002) have shown a relationship between deviance, academic dishonesty, and infidelity by demonstrating that students who hold attitudes that are favorable toward academic dishonesty and infidelity also tend to hold attitudes that are favorable towards other types of deviant behavior. Because authoritative parenting deters deviance, one would expect that an increase in parental strictness/supervision and warmth/involvement (that is, in parental authoritativeness), would be associated with an increase in children's adoption of prosocial values, and that this adoption of prosocial values would be reflected in children's negative attitudes towards academic dishonesty and infidelity. Consequently, we hypothesize that the offspring of parents who practiced authoritative parenting will hold less favorable attitudes towards academic dishonesty and infidelity.

Method

Participants

We recruited 109 participants from a convenience sample of students enrolled in online psychology classes at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas. Females comprised 85.3% (N= 93) of the sample, and males comprised 14.7% (N= 16). Participants' ages ranged from 19 to 59 years with a mean age of 29.39 years. Regarding ethnicity, 46.8% of participants categorized themselves as non-Hispanic Whites, 37.6% as Hispanic, 9.2% as African-American, 1.8% as Asian, 1.8% as Native American, and 2.8% as "Other." Single participants comprised the largest percentage in the sample (56%). Married participants comprised 33.9% of the sample; divorced and separated participants comprised 10.1%. Most of the participants (37.6%) were seniors in college, followed by juniors (29.4), graduate students (21.1%), sophomores (10.1%), and freshmen (0.9%). Participants' GPA scores ranged from 2.0 to 4.0 with a mean GPA of 3.25. The semester credit hours (SCH) in which participants were enrolled at the time of this study ranged from 3 to 21 hours; the average number of SCH was 9.11 hours.

Materials

Participants completed a small demographic survey, which included questions about participants' gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, year in college, GPA, and SCH. Participants indicated whether they had cheated in previous college classes and the number of times they had cheated. They also indicated the likelihood that they would cheat in future classes on a 5-point Likert scale. Responses ranged from 0 ("definitely would not cheat") to 5 ("definitely would cheat").

Participants then completed two measures of parenting styles adapted from those developed by Lamborn et al. (1991). Lamborn et al. created these measures by taking or adapting items from existing questionnaires and by creating items based on the dimensions of parenting developed by Baumrind and Maccoby and Martin (as cited in Baumrind, 2005). Cronbach's alpha, as determined by Lamborn et al., was .72 for the first measure and .76 for the second measure, indicating acceptable levels of internal consistency.

Since the measures created by Lamborn et al. (1991) were developed for use with adolescents, and therefore had questions phrased in the present tense, we altered the questions for use with college students by phrasing items in the past tense. For example, "He [father] keeps pushing me to do my best in whatever I do" was changed to "He kept pushing me to do my best in whatever I did." To enhance clarification, we adapted directions from the Parental Authority Questionnaire by Buff (1989), which was developed for use with adults and therefore specifies that the items pertain to the examinee's "years of growing up at home" (Buri, 1989).

The first measure we used assessed the parenting styles to which participants were accustomed during their years at home. Fourteen items assessed the dimensions of parental warmth and involvement. Five items referred to participants' relationships with their fathers or male guardians, and five items referred to participants' relationships with their mothers or female guardians. Items included, "I could count on him [father/male guardian] to help me out, if I had some kind of problem." Responses included "usually true" and "usually false." Following the procedures established by Lamborn et al. (1991), participants from two-parent households completed all ten items. We averaged the items to create a total score for both father and mother. Participants from single-parent households completed items pertaining to whichever parent was present during their years at home. We totaled these items without averaging to create a total score for the present parent.

Following Lamborn et al. (1991), we combined the scores for the first 10 items with scores for the remaining four items in the parental warmth/involvement scale. Items included, "How much did your parents really know who your friends were?" Responses included "knew a lot", "knew a little", and "didn't know." We weighted responses so that each item had a maximum score of 1 point. Then, we totaled and averaged the participants' responses to create an overall parental warmth/involvement score that ranged from 0 (not involved) to 1 (very involved).

The second measure contained nine items that assessed the dimensions of parental strictness and supervision. Items included, "How much did your parents TRY to know where you were at night?" and "How much did your parents REALLY know where you were at night?" Responses included "tried a lot", "tried a little", "didn't try", and "knew a lot", "knew a little", "didn't know." Following the procedure of Lamborn et al. (1991), we weighted responses so that each item had a maximum score of I point. Then, we totaled and averaged the participants' responses to create an overall parental strictness/supervision score that ranged from 0 (not strict) to 1 (very strict).

Participants also completed two measures adapted from one developed by Michaels and Miethe (1989). The items used by Michaels and Miethe were adequate for the purposes of our study, so no item revision was necessary. However, since Michaels and Miethe did not include directions for their measure, we created our own set of instructions and included a definition of academic dishonesty for clarification purposes. Cronbach's alpha for the scale, as determined by Michaels and Miethe (1989) was .78, indicating the scale has an acceptable level of internal consistency.

The first measure we used consisted of eight items designed to assess participants' attitudes towards academic dishonesty. Items included, "Cheating in a college class should not be considered such a serious offense because so many students do it" and "There is never an acceptable justification for cheating in a college class." Responses utilized a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 ("strongly disagree") to 4 ("strongly agree"). We reverse-scored the last four items so that higher scores indicated a more accepting attitude towards academic dishonesty.

We created the second measure by adapting items from the measure of academic dishonesty and substituting appropriate words and phrases to tailor the eight items to measure attitudes towards infidelity. For example, "Cheating in a college class should not be considered such a serious offense because so many students do it" was changed to "Cheating on a partner should not be considered such a serious offense because so many people do it". Likewise, "There is never an acceptable justification for cheating in a college class" was changed to "There is never an acceptable justification for infidelity." Again, responses utilized a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 ("strongly disagree") to 4 ("strongly agree"). We reverse-scored the last four items so that higher scores indicated a more accepting attitude towards infidelity.

Procedure

Participants received an email containing an informed consent statement and the questionnaires. The informed consent statement outlined the details of the study and informed participants that they were to return the questionnaires to the researchers without their names attached, so that their confidentiality would be protected. For their participation, participants received bonus points in one of their online classes.

Results

Twenty-three of the 109 participants (21.1%) admitted to cheating. Of those who had cheated in the past, rates of cheating ranged from 1 to 10 times, with a mode of 2 times. Out of all the participants, the majority (77.1%) rated their likelihood of cheating in the future to be a 0 ("definitely would not cheat") on a 5-point Likert scale. Twenty participants rated their likelihood of future cheating to be a 1, 4 rated their likelihood a 2 ("neutral" or "undecided"), and 1 rated his/her likelihood a 3 on the 5-point Likert scale.

We conducted Pearson correlations to determine whether a relationship existed between total parental warmth/involvement scores, total parental strictness/supervision scores, attitudes towards cheating, and attitudes towards infidelity. We found a significant correlation between total parental warmth/involvement scores and total parental strictness/supervision scores, r(108) = .418, p < .05, such that students who reported high parental warmth also reported high parental strictness.

We found a significant correlation between attitudes towards cheating scores and attitudes towards infidelity scores, r(109) = .205, p < .05, such that students who endorsed more favorable attitudes towards academic dishonesty also endorsed more favorable attitudes towards infidelity. We also found a significant correlation between total parental strictness/supervision scores and attitudes towards infidelity, r(109) = -. 190, p < .05, such that students who reported high parental strictness also reported less favorable attitudes towards infidelity. However, parental strictness/supervision accounted for only 3.6% of the variance in attitudes towards infidelity.

We did not find a significant correlation between parental warmth/involvement and attitudes towards infidelity, r(108) = -.149, p = n.s.; parental warmth/involvement and attitudes towards academic dishonesty, r(108) = .098, p = n.s.; or strictness/supervision and attitudes towards academic dishonesty, r(109) = .038, p = n.s.

Discussion

The results of our study demonstrated only partial support for our hypothesis. We found a significant positive relationship between parental warmth/involvement and parental strictness/supervision. This finding suggests that most students perceived their parents as authoritative (i.e., as utilizing a high degree of both warmth/involvement and strictness/supervision). We also found a significant positive relationship between students' attitudes towards cheating and towards infidelity. This finding parallels that reported by Zimny, Robertson, and Bartoszek (2008) and suggests that there is indeed a relationship between favorable attitudes toward academic dishonesty and favorable attitudes towards infidelity, since students who held favorable attitudes towards one type of deviant behavior also held favorable attitudes towards the other.

In addition, we found a significant negative relationship between parental strictness/supervision and attitudes towards infidelity. This finding suggests that students who perceived their parents as strict held less favorable attitudes towards infidelity. However, the finding that parental strictness/supervision accounted for only a small portion of the variance in attitudes towards infidelity suggests that factors other than parental strictness may be more strongly related to attitudes towards infidelity. We did not find a relationship between parental warmth/involvement and students' attitudes towards academic dishonesty, or between either warmth/involvement or strictness/supervision and attitudes towards academic dishonesty.

The lack of significant correlations between measures of authoritativeness and attitudes towards academic dishonesty, the lack of a significant correlation between parental warmth/involvement and attitudes towards infidelity, as well as the small amount of variance in attitudes towards infidelity accounted for by parental strictness/supervision, are interesting and somewhat surprising, given the support in the literature (e.g., Lamborn et al., 1991; Patock-Peckham, 2001; Simons et al., 1991; Slicker, 1998) for the relationship between parents' authoritativeness and children's prosocial values and positive psychological adjustment. It may be that academic dishonesty and infidelity have become so common in our society so as to be "normalized", and therefore are not affected by the positive influence of authoritative parenting in the same way that other deviant behaviors are, particularly those deviant behaviors that have not been normalized, such as theft or violent crimes.

Following this line of reasoning, the finding of a significant correlation between parental strictness/supervision and infidelity may indicate that infidelity is only slightly less acceptable to students than academic dishonesty. The difference in acceptability could be attributed to the lack of a "victim" in cases of academic dishonesty: academic dishonesty seems to be a "victimless crime" in the eyes of the perpetrator and does not evoke the same level of emotional distress as facing a betrayed romantic partner.

There are some troubling implications associated with a normalization of cheating and infidelity. First, rates of academic dishonesty and romantic infidelity can be expected to increase if the normalization of these behaviors remains unchecked. Second, schools may have to alter their strategies for identifying and dealing with academic dishonesty to increase their applicability and effectiveness. Third, more therapists may need to become competent couple's counselors in order to help couples deal with the aftermath of infidelity.

There are some limitations to our study. First, the relatively small sample size makes generalizing to the broader population speculative, so the study should be replicated with a larger and more diverse sample. Second, the questionnaires we selected were high in face validity, which means that participants' answers may have been affected by social desirability. It may be that students' parents were more or less authoritative than they perceived them to be. A future study might involve participants' parents by having them fill out measures pertaining to parenting, while the participants fill out measures pertaining to attitudes.

In summary, although our study garnered some interesting findings, further research is necessary. The next logical step would be to replicate this study using a larger sample.

References

Baumrind, D. (2005). Patterns of parental authority and adolescent autonomy. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2005(8), 61-69.

Bloodgood, J. M., Turnley, W. H., & Mudrack, E (2008). The influence of ethics instruction, religiosity, and intelligence on cheating behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 82, 557-571. doi: 10.1007/s 10551-007-9576-0

Buri, J. R. (1989, May). An Instrument for the Measurement of Parental Authority Prototypes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association. Chicago, IL. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED306471)

Feldman, S. S., Cauffman, E., Jensen, L. A., & Arnett, J. J. (2000). The (un)acceptability of betrayal: A study of college students' evaluations of sexual betrayal by a romantic partner and betrayal of a friend's confidence. Journal of Youth and Adolsecence, 29, 499-523.

Jensen, L. A., Arnett, J. J., Feldman, S. S., & Cauffman, E. (2002). It's wrong, but everybody does it: Academic dishonesty among high school and college students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27, 209-228. doi: 10.1006/ceps.2001.1088

Kisamore, J. L., Stone, T. H., & Jawahar, I. M. (2007). Academic integrity: The relationship between individual and situational factors on misconduct contemplations. Journal of Business Ethics, 75, 381-394. doi: 10.1007/s 10551-006-9260-9

Lamborn, S. D., Mounts, N. S., Steinberg, L., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1991). Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development, 62, 1049-1065.

Michaels, J. W., & Miethe, T. D. (1989). Applying theories of deviance to academic cheating. Social Science Quarterly, 70, 870-885.

Patock-Peckham, J. A., Cheong, J. W., Balhorn, M. E., & Nagoshi, C. T. (2001). A social learning perspective: A model of parenting styles, self-regulation, perceived drinking control, and alcohol use and problems. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 25, 1284-1292.

Reiss, I. L., Anderson, R. E., & Sponaugle, G. C. (1980). Multivariate model of the determinants of extramarital sexual permissiveness. Journal of Marriage and Family, 42(2), 395-411.

Simons, R. L., Whitbeck, L. B., Conger, R. D., & Conger, K. J. (1991). Parenting factors, social skills, and value commitments as precursors to school failure, involvement with deviant peers, and delinquent behavior. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 20(6), 645-664.

Slicker, E. K. (1998). Relationship of parenting style to behavioral adjustment in graduating high school seniors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27, 345-372.

Taris, Y. W., Semin, G. R., & Bok, I. A. (1998). The effect of quality of family interaction and intergenerational transmission of values on sexual permissiveness. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 159, 237-250.

Whisman, M. A., & Snyder, D. K. (2007). Sexual infidelity in a national survey of American women: Differences in prevalence and correlates as a function of method of assessment. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 147-154. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.21.2.147

Zimny, S. T., Robertson, D. U., & Bartoszek, T. (2008). Academic and personal dishonesty in college students. North American Journal of Psychology, 10, 291-312.

HANNA M. ESTEP, B.A.

Department of Psychology

University of Texas--Permian Basin

JAMES N. OLSON, PH.D.

Professor

Department of Psychology

University of Texas--Permian Basin
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Author:Estep, Hanna M.; Olson, James N.
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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