Does Bad Company Corrupt Good Morals? Social Bonding and Academic Cheating among French and Chinese Teens

Journal of Business Ethics 146 (3):639-667 (2017)
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A well-known common wisdom asserts that strong social bonds undermine delinquency. However, there is little empirical evidence to substantiate this assertion regarding adolescence academic cheating across cultures. In this study, we adopt social bonding theory and develop a theoretical model involving four social bonds and adolescence self-reported academic cheating behavior and cheating perception. Based on 913 adolescents in France and China, we show that parental attachment, academic commitment, and moral values curb academic cheating; counterintuitively, peer involvement contributes to cheating. We test our theoretical model across culture and gender, separately, using multi-group analyses. For French teens, peer involvement encourages and moral values undermine cheating; for Chinese adolescents, all four social bonds contribute to cheating, similar to the whole sample. For girls, parental attachment deters, but peer involvement enhances cheating. For boys, parental attachment is the only social bond that does not affect cheating. We treat social integration as a mediator of the relationship between peer involvement and social bonds that construct, in turn, is related to cheating and ask: Considering popularity, who are likely to cheat? Our answers provide an interesting paradox: Popularity matters, yet popular French girls and unpopular Chinese boys are likely to cheat. Social sharing is a positive pro-social behavior in consumer behavior. However, academic cheating and rule breaking, reflecting self-serving altruism and the red sneakers effect, at a very young age may have the potential to grow into the Enron Effect later in their lives as executives in organizations. We shed new lights on both the bright and dark sides of social bonds on cheating, demonstrate bad company corrupts good morals, differently, across culture and gender, and provide practical implications to social bonding, business ethics, and cheating.



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