People who cheated on exams in high school are considerably more likely to be dishonest later in life, according to a report by the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

The study, which surveyed nearly 7,000 people in various age groups nationwide, offers a sobering assessment of today's youth as cynics who are aware that their behavior crosses boundaries but believe it is necessary to succeed.

And the findings suggest that habits formed in childhood persist: Those who cheated in high school are more likely as adults to lie to a customer, inflate an insurance or expense claim, cheat on taxes and lie to their spouses.

"When you see that teens are five times more likely than adults to think it's OK to cheat to get ahead, we have a problem," said Rich Jarc, executive director of the Los Angeles-based institute. "Just think if five times the number of people in business, politics and banking hold those beliefs. That's alarming."

The institute issues biennial reports on the ethics of American high school students that have charted a steady increase in those admitting to cheating, lying and stealing. The new study is the first to connect teen behavior to dishonest activities in adulthood.

Among the findings: Teens 17 and younger are five times more likely than those older than 50 to believe that lying and cheating are necessary to succeed (51% vs. 10%), those in the 17 and younger group are nearly four times as likely to deceive their boss (31% vs. 8%) and three times more likely to keep change mistakenly given to them (49% vs. 15%).

More young adults ages 18 to 24 reported lying to a spouse or partner than did the 41- to 50-year-old members of their parents' generation (48% vs. 22%), more made an unauthorized copy of music or a video (69% vs. 27%) and they were more likely to have misrepresented or omitted a fact in a job interview (14% vs. 4%).

Source: Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dishonest29-2009oct29,0,25349.story