Ethics are formulated through the operation of five key forces in the individual’s environment: (1) family influences (2) peer influences; (3) experiences; (4) values morals; and (5) situational factors 

Family Influences

The formulation of ethics begins when the individual is a small child. Thus, the family environment has significant influence in determining what the child learns about good  and bad, right and wrong. Typically, when parents demonstrate high ethical standards, rewarding goods behavior and punishing bad behavior, the child will adopt similar ethical standards.

 Peer Influences

As the child develops contacts outside the home through school, play and work, peer exert considerable influence on the individual’s ethical beliefs. If the child makes friends that conduct themselves within high ethical standards, he or she will come to adopt those same standards. On the other hand, if the child makes friends with peers who steal and use drugs, the child will probably accept those behaviors as being ethical. 


As a person matures and develops as a human being, he or she will be exposed to many critical experiences that will affect his or her ethical standards. If a person is punished or not appropriately rewarded for “good” behavior while, others are seen as rewarded for “bad” behavior, the person will probably after both ethical standards and behavioral patterns. 

Values and Morals

One’s ethical standards are also greatly influenced by values and morals. People who place a high value on money and material possessions may not have strong ethical standards regarding behaviors that facilitate the accumulation of that wealth. People who value the quality of life enjoyed by all living creatures will probably have strong ethics with respect to the proper treatment of others. 

Situational Factors

People often change their ethics in response to unforeseen situational factors. An employee, who is threatened with losing a job that has been held for years, may commit unethical acts in order to save the job. A father with a sick child might use the threat of physical violence to secure treatment for the child at an understaffed clinic.