Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Little empirical research exists in the area of measuring morality and moral development of business, business people, and business-related professions such as accounting and law. While these professions have Codes of Professional Conduct that state that members must be of high moral character, mechanisms for empirically measuring moral character have, until recently, been non-existent. Through the pioneering research by Lawrence Kohlberg, a moral development testing instrument is now available. The purpose of this study was to measure the level of moral development of auditors in three national ("Big-Eight") accounting firms, utilizing Kohlberg's stage theory of moral development. Eighteen subjects were randomly selected from each of 3 "Big-Eight" firms for a total sample of 54 subjects. Of these 54 subjects, 18 were partners of their respective firms and the remaining 36 were entry-level staff accountants. This research was conducted in both New York City and New Orleans, Louisiana; 27 subjects were interviewed in each city (9 partners and 18 staff accountants). Parametric and non-parametric statistics were used to measure the median level of moral development of accountants and to test for differences in the level of moral development between (1) partners and staff accountants, (2) accountants in each of the two cities, and (3) differences among the three firms. The median score of the accountants surveyed was measured as Kohlberg's conventional stage 4(3) and a moral maturity score (MMS) of 373. At the .05 level of significance, no difference in moral development was detected: (1) between partners and staff accountants, (2) between accountants in New York City and New Orleans, Louisiana, and (3) among the three accounting firms surveyed.