The abnormally high incidence of dishonesty manifested as fraud and corruption among Nigerian adults was noted. Based on the social learning model proposed by Albert Bandura, this paper argues that it is necessary that psychologists study dishonesty among children: not only to understand the extent to which Nigerian children have learnt dishonesty from the adults, but also to be able to measure, predict and control this pattern of behaviour. A scale to assess dishonesty among children is therefore presented. The scale, the Eze-Nwoke Children's Dishonesty Scale, was developed using the likert method. Participants were primary four (4), five (5), and six (6) school children aged between eight (8) years and 15 years, with a mean age of 11.31 years and a mode of 12 years. The scale comprises 44 items that loaded on four (4) factors when rotated with the equamax method. The internal consistency reliability estimate of the scale is Cronbach's alpha .92 while the test-retest reliability estimate is r = .85. It is concluded that the scale can be used to measure dishonesty among children. Key Words: social learning, children, dishonesty scale.

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Publication: Ife Psychologia
Author: Eze, John Eze; Nwoke, Mary Basil
Date published: September 1, 2011
Language: English
PMID: 93408
ISSN: 11171421
Journal code: FPSY


Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian writer who rejected a national award given to him recently by the Nigerian Federal Government, observed that the problem with Nigeria is perversion of power (Achebe, 1983). Achebe implied that Nigerian leaders who are in the position of power are dishonest and therefore corrupt. He noted that corruption is associated with power and occurs among the powerful, and that in Nigeria corruption has "passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage" (Achebe, 1983, p. 38).

Psychological Tests and Testing

In general terms a test is a device that is used to quantify observations made by the tester.

Anastasia and Urbina ,(1997) define a psychological test as an objective and standardized measure of a sample of behaviour of human beings and animals. Ehigie, (2005) defines psychological test as a measurement device designed to quantify the behaviour of human beings and animals. Santrock, (2007) observed that tests are used by experts to predict and validate the intelligent quotient of children for placement in schools. Thus, a test is used in the physical sciences, agricultural sciences, biological sciences, medicine, Educational purposess and behavioural sciences. Psychology as a science that studies human and animal behaviours is an embodiment of psychological tests and testing.

In this study, dishonesty and corruption are considered synonymous. It is a disposition expressed in the exploitation of the power or advantage one has in a social interaction to deal insincerely and exploitatively. The high degree of dishonesty among a large proportion of Nigerian adults is not only of concern for its direct and immediate consequences but also because of the likelihood of its perpetuation through the learning and repetition of the dishonest behaviours by children.

Albert Bandura and colleagues found that children learn and repeat the behaviour of other people if those people are similar, powerful or are seen rewarded (Bandura, Ross 8c Ross, 1963; Bandura, 1965; 1983).

In Nigeria, as Achebe (1983) pointed out, those observed to be dishonest (corrupt) are powerful. He also observed that they are rewarded. In Nigeria, a high proportion of dishonest persons, rather than honest persons, take big chieftaincy titles, own and ride very expensive vehicles, build and live in very elegant houses, intimidate others, pass examinations even when they lack the required capability, control decision making at various levels including government, and in fact get whatever they want. Nigerian children observe these and may learn from the experience. It is very likely that Nigerian children are learning dishonesty from the adults on the principles outlined by Bandura's (1977) social learning theory.

Observation of children who carry goods about (hawk), such as cooked food, bread, fruits, groundnuts, cooked eggs, soft drinks and sachet water, especially those who hawk goods on the highways and byways reveals that they often cheat their customers and engage in other forms of dishonest behaviour. For instance, they could mix left-over cooked food, eggs or groundnuts with fresh ones and sell them to buyers in the place of fresh ones. Sometimes, these children who carry goods steal people's goods and sell them back to the owners. Sometimes, they steal their fellow hawkers' goods and add them to theirs and sell.

Many of these children are very smart and know how to play their fraudulent games and tactics to their favour. For example, those who sell bread know how to treat stale bread and it would look fresh. The stale bread could be sold to a traveler in a vehicle. When the customer had given the bread-seller an amount of money that required balance, it is observed that sometimes the bread-seller would delay getting the balance until the vehicle drove off. Then, the traveler had been defrauded of the money; because the loaf is bad and the balance was not given.

Sometimes, such children do not give proper account to someone they helped to sell their goods. Some children, even those who do not hawk goods, could steal their parents' wears or other goods and sell them. There were cases where children pluck fruits from their parent's orchard and sell them through hawker peers. Children in school cheat and steal from their teachers and fellow students. They also cheat and steal in class tests and examinations. Some children who are house-helps do a lot of mischievous things. They commit what might constitute criminal acts, while helping people.

Bandura's (1977) theory of modelling and principle of vicarious reinforcement may explain the preponderance of these forms of dishonest behaviour among Nigerian children. According to the theory, individuals modify their behaviour on account of reinforcement or punishment they observed to have been administered to another person who emitted a similar or contradictory behaviour. The observed person being observed is the model. Chauhan (1991) observed that most behaviours of children, adolescents and even adults are products of vicarious reinforcement. Put simply, most behaviours of the youngster are practice to match the behaviour of the model. The model could be real life model or symbolic model. Real life models include parents, teachers, peers, heroes in film shows, sport stars, or very successful persons in the immediate environment or in the society. Symbolic models include verbal and pictorial representations, written materials, books, magazines, and works of art. It is observed that both forms of models are effective.

A large proportion of Nigerian adults is dishonest and commits atrocities in business, politics, schools and other works of life. The system rewards them. Children observe, read or hear them being rewarded. They are effective models.

Psychologists need to study dishonesty among children in Nigeria. This is needed, not only to understand the extent to which Nigerian children have learned dishonest behaviours, but also in order to be able to predict and control this pattern of behaviour. For instance, it needs to be determined which of both genders is more likely to be dishonest in critical situations. Onyilo (1997), Ameh (1998), and Nwoke (1998) reported gender differences in antisocial behaviour among Nigerian adults and adolescents, with males being more involved in antisocial behaviour than females. It needs to be noted that Bandura (1983) postulated that similarity of the model increases the probability of the learner acquiring the disposition. Furthermore, research indicates that female infants are more likely than male infants to be restrained from an activity by the caregiver's facial expression of disapproval (Rosen, Adamson, 8c Bakeman, 1992).

The purpose of this study is to develop a scale that could be used to measure dishonesty among children. Two studies were conducted: the first one involved the development of items for the scale and establishment of its factorial validity and internal consistency reliability; and the second study involved the establishment of the test-retest reliability of the instrument.


Study 1

The purpose of the first study was to select items for the scale and determine its factorial validity as well as internal consistency reliability.


A total of 199 pupils in elementary four and elementary six classes of a primary school in Nsukka town were involved. All the pupils available in the classes were used. The researchers set elementary four as the lower limit of educational level that would enable a child to understand and respond to the instructions and items on the scale without assistance; and elementary six limit was based on the consideration that it is the highest level of education for persons within children age level.

Fifty-six (27%) of the pupils omitted items on the scale while two (1%) put marks on the instrument to indicate that they did not understand some of the items. Their responses were therefore discarded. The responses of the remaining 143 pupils were analyzed. They comprised 41 elementary four pupils (28.70%), and 102 elementary six pupils (71.30%). This consisted of 64 females (44.80%) and 79 males (55.20%). They were aged between eight (8) years and 15 years, with a mean age of 11.37 years and standard deviation of 1.62 years.


The purpose of the study was to develop this scale identified as Eze-Nwoke Children's Dishonesty Scale. The scale is to be used as self-assessment measure of dishonesty among children. The likert method (Dawis, 1987) of scale development was adopted.

Items for the scale were gathered from the literature and suggestions made by pupils, teachers, and psychologists in the fields of clinical, developmental, and experimental psychology. A total of 55 items that indicate particular behaviours and tendencies of oneself were gathered. These were typed into a foolscap paper with two-sentence instructions required to respond to the scale (see Appendix D). Dotted lines were drawn form the end of each item to the response columns in order to ensure that the participant's response tallies with the item. Provision was also made for the age and gender of the participant. The "Dishonesty" on the title of the scale is usually removed whenever it was to be administered to a respondent in order not to sensitize the participant to social desirability responding.

The scale is scored in the negative direction, with strongly agree being assigned a weight of 5, agree assigned a weight of 4, maybe assigned a weight of 3, disagree assigned a weight of 2, and strongly disagree being assigned a weight of 1. Five items were stated in such a way that they were reverse-scored (a weight of 1 to strongly agree and a weight of 5 to strongly disagree). A participant could potentially obtain a minimum score of 55 and a maximum score of 275 on the final scale.

Design and Procedure

The multi-group cross-sectional design was adopted. This involved participants of different genders and educational levels. The scale was administered to participants identified as a crosssection of the target group.

The researchers explained to the headmistress of the school that they are developing a scale to be used to measure dishonesty among children and that they require her permission to involve pupils from her school. The request was granted and one of the researchers who was on internship at the school administered the scale on the pupils in their respective classrooms during the school hours. The researcher told the pupils that it was an exercise to enable pupils say their minds and that it was not an examination. They were told to tick one of the response options to each statement and put 'x" mark for those they do not understand. The teacher was asked to explain the instructions whenever any of them requests such. Neither the teacher nor the pupils were allowed to explain an item or suggest a response to any of the respondents. The teachers stayed with the pupils to ensure that there was decorum in the class while the instrument was being completed. No time limit was given for completion of the instrument.

One of the researchers collected the instrument from each class when they had completed it. They were scored by one of the researchers while the other researcher rescored them to ensure accuracy.

Analysis was conducted with the SPSS version 10 computer program. It involved computation of item-total statistics, inter-item correlation, Cronbach's alpha, and factor analysis of the selected items.

Study 2

The purpose of the second study was to determine the test-retest reliability of the scale.


Pupils in elementary four, five, and six classes of a primary school in Abakaliki town were involved in the study. All the pupils in these classes were involved in the study. They comprised 142 pupils.

Twenty-one (21) (14.79%) out of the 142 participants were not available on the second day of the study. They were therefore excluded from the study. The responses of the remaining 121 participants were analyzed. They comprised 19 elementary four (15.70%), 52 elementary five (43%), and 50 elementary six (41.30%) pupils. These consisted of 59 females (48.80%) and 62 males (51.20%). They were aged between nine (9) years and 17 years, with a mean of 12.47 years and a standard deviation of 1.54 years.


The final version of the Eze-Nwoke Children's Dishonesty Scale described in the first study was used. It consists of 44 items (see Appendix D) that are scored in one direction: a weight of 5 to strongly agree and a weight of 1 to strongly disagree - none of the reverse-scored items met the criteria for selection in the first study. A participant could potentially obtain a minimum score of 44 and a maximum score of 220 on the final scale. The validity and reliability estimates of the scale had been made in the first study.

Design and Procedure

The multi-group cross-sectional design was also adopted in this second study. It was conducted on two days, separated by 14 days.

On the first day, one of the researchers contacted and explained the purpose of the study to the headmistress of the school where the study was conducted. Permission was obtained from the headmistress, who then introduced the researcher to the teachers of the classes involved in the study and asked them to assist the researcher. The researcher also explained the purpose of the study to the teachers and instructed them to explain but not suggest answers to the pupils. The teachers collected adequate copies of the scale and administered them on the pupils in their respective classrooms during the school hours. The pupils were asked to write their names on the instrument (so that they could be identified for the retest). No time limit was given for completion of the instrument. The teachers collected the instrument back from the pupils on the same day and handed them back to the researcher. They were scored by one of the researchers and rescored by the other researcher.

The researcher went back for the retest on the 15th day after the initial administration. The researcher approached the headmistress again and she gave permission for the teachers to assist the researcher. The administration and collection, as well as scoring was the same as that of first administration.

Analysis involved computation of test-retest correlation with the SPSS version 10 computer program.


The results are presented in the sequence in which they were conducted. The results of the first study are presented first, and then the results of the second study.

Study 1

There were a total of 55 items on the original instrument administered on the participants. Items that approximately attained .30 item-total correlation (r) were selected. Forty-four (44) items met this criterion (see Appendix A). None of the five reversescored items met the criterion. All the items in the final scale are therefore to be scored in one direction, with strongly agree response being assigned the highest weight of 5 points.

All the 44 items had moderate inter-item correlations and high internal consistency reliability index of Cronbach's alpha .92 (See Appendix B). The 44 items loaded on four factors when rotated with the equamax method (Appendix C). The covariances of the factors are shown below.

The table shows that the components have very low covariance with one another. It indicates that they have very strong boundaries in their measurement of the different components that constitute the scale.

Study 2

The study assessed dishonesty among a group of children repeatedly, within a 15-day interval. The test-retest correlation of scores obtained by the participants is shown below.

The table shows that the scale has a test retest correlation of r = .85. The sample size is also above the minimum limit required for stability of r.


The scale's high internal consistency and test-retest reliabilities are significant. It indicates that the scale is stable. The 44 items loaded on four factors. It needs to be noted that the inter-item correlations are low, indicating that the scale has high variance (discriminatory power). This is further demonstrated by the low covariance of the factors (Table 1). These are highly positive attributes of a unidimensional scale.

The researchers identify the factors as following: factor 1, mischievousness; factor 2, unscrupulousness; factor 3, exploitation; and factor 4, selfishness.

The researchers consider the scale both valid and reliable research instrument. It will be relevant where self-report technique of gathering data is desired in studying dishonesty among children. It can be used to determine which among both gender or critical child groups are more dishonest than the other. It may also be tried on adolescents to determine its characteristics on this age group.


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Nwoke, M. B. C. (1998). Factors related to antisocial behaviours of secondary school students in Abuja municipality. A Master's degree thesis, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Onyilo, B. (1997). 497 Nigerians deported. Drug Salvation Force, 1(2), 7.

Rosen,W.D., Adamson, L. B., and Bakeman, R. (1992). An experimental investigation of infant social referencing: Mothers' messages and gender differences. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1172 - 1178.

Santock, J.W.( 2007) .A tropical approach to life span development. New York: Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company ltd.

Author affiliation:

1* Eze, John Eze & 2[dagger] Nwoke, Mary Basil

1 Clinical Psychologist

2 Developmental Psychologist

Department of Psychology

University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Author affiliation:

* ; 08050256033

[dagger] ; 08038243959


Appendix D


Instructions: Tick (4) on the line under the options provided to indicate how far you agree with each of the statements below.

Mark "JC' against any number (statement) you do not understand.

Age: - (years) Gender: male [white square] female [white square]

1 . Money is the most important thing in life.

2. A person should get what the person wants no matter how.

3. If one finds a lost object that is very nice, there is no need to return it to the owner.

4. It is very sweet to tell lies if no one catches you

5. A smart person is someone who is sharp in stealing

6. How a person gets what the person wants is not important

7. There is nothing bad in mixing spoilt things with good ones for sale.

8. In order to make more money, one should give half measure of what the person is selling.

9. One can sell something a bit different from what the person claims to sell.

10. There is nothing wrong in keeping part of the money from something sold for another person.

11. It is good to tell lies in order to defend oneself

12. When people are in a hurry, I can delay to give them their balance.

13. It is not bad to sell things at higher price to strangers.

14. It does not matter if one sells a thing to people who do not know that it is spoilt.

15. If one finds lost money, it is better to add it to one's own money.

16. It is good to steal other people's things and sell it back to them.

17. It is good to share another person's thing and keep your own to yourself.

18. There is nothing wrong in copying from somebody's work in a class test/ exam.

19. It is wise to steal.

20. Stealing is not necessarily bad depending on the condition

21. There is nothing wrong in stealing someone's thing and add it to one's own for sale.

22. It does not matter if one confuses somebody to buy one's things.

23. There is nothing wrong cheating in buying and selling things.

24. If you don't cheat others, they will cheat you.

25. 1 believe in the saying: Mugu falls, sharp person carry go.

26. For one to progress, the person must cheat.

27. It does not matter to cheat a buyer if the person is not watching.

28. People who say they are righteous are only pretending.

29. It does not matter to give old people bad money.

30. It is good to sell damaged things in the night.

31. It is good to tell lies against other people so that they can be punished.

32. One has to deny bad things one did.

33. It is good to overtake other people in a line.

34. It does not matter if one gives beggars bad money.

35. It is wise to secretly take another person's thing to complete your own.

36. 1 enjoy hawking for people in order to make my own money out of it.

37. On my way to school, sometimes I divert to pluck people's fruits.

38. It does not matter if one steals money to entertain one's friends.

39. 1 sometimes have to push barrow in the market when I should be in school.

40. It is good to sell things with half cup instead of full cup

41. 1 pluck other people's fruit and sell to make money without telling them.

42. It is good to fight in the classroom.

43. It is good to favour oneself before another person.

44. It is good to make noise in the classroom while the teacher is teaching.

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