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American Youth’s Values Are Sliding, Study Says

Thirty-five percent of youth admitted to having stolen something from a store, while 28 percent said they had stolen from a parent or relative. Twenty-five percent of students with “personal religious convictions” said they stole from their parents.

The study, “Report Card 2002: The Ethics of American Youth,” showed a definite deterioration in the values of American youth.

Seventy-four percent of students admitted they cheated on an exam at least once in the past year—up from 61 percent in 1992.

“The number who stole something from a store within the past 12 months rose from 31% to 38%, while the percentage who say they lied to their teachers and parents also increased substantially,” read the report.

According to the study, students who attended private religious schools were less likely to shoplift, but more likely to cheat on exams and lie to their teachers.

The old idea that participation in extra-curricular activities hindered bad behavior didn’t hold up, according to study results. Students who participated in varsity sports “cheated on exams at a higher rate than students who did not (78% vs. 73%).”

“The evidence is that a willingness to cheat has become the norm and that parents, teachers, coaches and even religious educators have not been able to stem the tide,” Michael Josephson, president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, said in a release. “The scary thing is that so many kids are entering the workforce to become corporate executives, politicians, airplane mechanics and nuclear inspectors with the dispositions and skills of cheaters and thieves.”

And girls aren’t all sugar and spice, according to the study. Girls generally were just as likely to cheat and lie as boys. But, “they are significantly less likely to engage in theft or other dishonest practices and they have more positive attitudes toward ethics,” read the report.

Kudos for brainy youth. Those planning on attending college or those enrolled in honors or advanced placement classes were less likely to cheat, steal and lie.

The study asked youth questions about stealing in two categories—shoplifting and stealing from their parents.

Thirty-five percent of youth admitted to having stolen something from a store, while 28 percent said they had stolen from a parent or relative. Twenty-five percent of students with “personal religious convictions” said they stole from their parents.

Youth will lie to different people and for a number of reasons, according to study results.
Ninety-three percent of youth admitted to lying to their parents, with girls lying slightly more often than boys. Eighty-three percent said they had lied to a teacher. And students attending religious schools were more likely to lie to their teachers.

Forty-six percent of youth said they lied to save money, and 37 percent said they would lie to get a job.

When asked if a “person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed,” 43 percent agreed.

“In addition, though many engaged in untrustworthy behavior, the students indicated that trust was very important,” according to the study. Ninety-five percent agreed, “It’s important to me that people trust me.”

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.