The purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of parental overprotection on Korean students’ moral behavior. To test the prediction that overprotected participants will show more immoral behavior in moral dilemma situation, we did not use self-reported moral reasoning instruments which were commonly used in previous studies (i.e. MJT, DIT) but used modified the experimental paradigm of Mazar, Amir, and Ariely (2008).
Participants were 105 university students, who completed Korean-Parental Overprotection Scale (K-POS; in preparation) and overprotection subscale of Parental Bonding Inventory (PBI; Parker, 1979) to assess the level of their parents’ overprotectiveness. In the experiment, participants were asked to take a short academic test which contains some difficult items to solve. Before taking the test, they were informed the average score of the test was 70 points which was 20 points higher than actual average score. Also, they were informed that participants who in the top 5% can receive a voucher while who in the bottom 15% have to complete additional survey. The participants were primed of parent-child relationship by reading the situational text about parents, which is presented at the very first two items of the test. After completing the test, self-scoring and self-reporting method were used to create a morally dilemmatic situation for participants can easily over-report their scores, providing them an opportunity to cheat. Participants’ test sheets were collected and compared with the scores in score sheets that they handed in. They were divided into immoral group and moral group based on whether they over-reported their scores or not.
The result showed that the group of students who cheated during the test (n = 20) experienced a significantly higher level of parental overprotection compared to those who did not cheat (n = 85) (K-POS: t = 2.176, p < .05; PBI: t = 2.536, p < .05). The result indicates that participants who received overprotective parental care tend to have high possibility to show immoral behavior in a morally dilemmatic situation, congruent to previous studies’ finding that parental overprotection negatively affects moral decision making.
The result emphasizes the necessity of close attention to appropriate parenting style for enhancing children’s moral development. The present study has implications for educators and clinicians in the parent training field. Substitute parenting style for parental overprotection should be trained to overprotective parents. It might also serve as a primary prevention of adolescents’ antisocial or immoral problems. Future studies with larger participant populations of diverse groups are required to generalize the result of this study and studies about effective parental counseling and training program for overprotective parents are recommended.