Moral development Essay

This essay has a total of 1717 words and 9 pages.

moral development


Carol Gilligan (1982) sparked a heated academic debate with her popular book In a
different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. In this book Gilligan
departs from the traditional sequential stage modals advocated by luminary psychologists
such as Piaget (1925) and Kohlberg (1969) and develops her own moral orientation model.
Gilligan criticises these theories as she claims they are insensitive to females
‘different voice’ on morality and therefore result in women achieving lower
stages, thereby labelling them morally inferior to men.

Gilligan (1982; also see Langdale’ 1986; Lyons, 1983; and Noddings, 1984) proposed
that male and females hold different life orientations, with particular emphasis on their
moral belief structure. According to Walker et al., (1987) a moral orientation
‘represents a conceptually distinctive framework or perspective for organising and
understanding the moral domain’ (p.844). Gilligan’s moral orientation model
states that males typically have a justice/rights orientation and females have a
care/response orientation. For the purposes of this study a justice/rights orientation and
a care/response orientation is operationalised according to the definitions utilised in
Brown et al’s. (1990) Reading Narratives of Conflict and Choice for Self and Moral
Voices: A Relational Method. A care voice is defined by Brown et al. (1990) as describing
‘relationships in term s of attachment/detachment, connection or
disconnection.’ (p.30.). A justice voice is defined as describing ‘
relationships in terms of inequality/equality, reciprocity or lack of respect’

Gilligan believes that males typically have a justice/rights orientation because of their
individualistic and separate conception of the self, their detached objectivity, their
basing of identity on occupation and their tendency to gravitate towards applying abstract
and impartial principles to situations. Therefore in her theory she claims that males view
morality as involving issues of conflicting rights. The other side of Gilligan’s
dichotomy believes that females have a typically care/response orientation because of
their perception of the self as connected to and interdependent with others, their basing
of identity on close personal relationships, their sensitivity not to endanger or hurt,
their concern for welfare and care of others and for harmonious relationships in concrete
situations. Thus, Gilligan believes that females view morality as involving issues of
conflicting responsibilities. (Walker, 1990).

Table 1. presents an example of both a justice and a care orientation. The examples are
adapted form Gilligan and Anttanucci’s, (1990) article entitled Two Moral
Orientations. These examples are drawn from discussions of real life moral dilemmas. In
1J a peer pressure dilemma is presented in terms of how to maintain one’s moral
standards and withstand pressure from one’s peers to deviate from what one knows is
right. In 1C a similar decision ( not to smoke) is put in terms of how to respond both to
one’s friends and oneself; the rightness of the decision not to smoke is
substantiated by the fact that it did not ruin any relationships. Attention to one’s
friends, to what they say and how it will affect the relationship is portrayed as a moral

Table 1.

Justice. Care.
1J [If people were taking drugs and I was 1c [ If there was one person, it would be a
the only one who wasn’t. I would feel it a lot easier to say no. I could talk to her,

was stupid. I know for me what is right as there wouldn’t be seven others to think
is right and what’s wrong is wrong…It’s about. I do think about them you know,
like a set of standards I have.] and wonder what they say about me and

what will it mean…I made the right

decision not to, because my real friends
accepted my decision.]

Adapted from Gilligan and Antunucci (1990) Two Moral orientations in Mapping the Moral Domain p.75.

Keefer and Olson (1995) are of the opinion that gender differences in moral orientations
are due to women’s propensity to present dilemmas of a relational nature and men
have the proclivity to relate dilemmas of a more impersonal nature. They claim that may
‘ indeed focus on different “content” but the modes of thought used in
planning action and in justifying courses of action may be the same as men.’ (p.2.)

The research presented here aims to :
1. Investigate if there are any sex-related differences in the moral orientations of
members of the Irish Defence Forces and the American Defence Forces.

2. Investigate whether or not males and females have a tendency to present dilemmas with
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