Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ronald C. Kramer


Drawing upon the literatures of organizational theory, sociology, criminology, and entrepreneurship, the intent of this study was to develop a theoretical model which would explain the creation and maintenance of organizational deviance in a direct selling organization. Based upon the work of Cole, Finney and Lesieur, Hughes, Gross, and Vaughan the utility of the model is illustrated with data gathered on the Amway Corporation, a multilevel direct selling organization. The model takes into consideration (1) the environment of the organization; (2) the goals of the organization; (3) the structure of the organization; and (4) the pressures, constraints, and controls which affect the actions and decisions of an organization.

Viewing the multilevel direct selling organization as two symbiotic entities, the research has shown that factors in the social structure produce pressures within each organization to achieve certain goals. If these goals cannot be obtained through normative or legal channels and if the controls or constraints impeding illegal behavior are not present or not fully operative, decisions may be made by the organization to engage in unlawful conduct. If no countervailing force arises to impede the illegal actions they tend to feed back into the organization to be reproduced.

Specific factors creating and sustaining organizational deviance in a direct selling organization are: (1) direct selling's emphasis on culturally approved success goals; (2) the business organization's need for profit; (3) competition and the need for constant recruitment in direct selling organizations; (4) low profitability on the part of most direct sellers; (5) a reward structure in multilevel direct selling organizations which emphasizes sponsoring over selling; (6) a policy of nonselective recruitment; (7) the fact that the training and guidance of distributors is left in the hands of other distributors in multilevel direct selling structures; (8) the fact that distributor organizations can number into the thousands; (9) the independent contractor status of direct sellers; (10) the fact that recruits and customers are friends or relatives of the distributor; and (11) the fact that the activities of direct selling usually take place in private settings.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Criminology Commons