Men and women are perhaps the most different from each other within a particular species. The actions and behavior even in the same situation emit vastly different outcomes. For example, in case of the break-up of a long-term relationship during college would spark a period of depression, substance abuse (for a time) and eventually moving on with a more guarded approach in a woman; in a nonviolent manner most of the time. A man however, would retaliate with a dash of violence and all of the above mentioned behavior or transform into a Theodore Robert Bundy. Naturally, we are made very differently. Our thoughts and actions reflect distinctive patterns. Society, through the ages has deemed women only as capable of running the household or to remain within the authority of the husband/father; conforming at all times to the set rules and guidelines.
This paper compares theories of two renowned psychologists; Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg to determine the evidence behind the rationale of difference in moral development.
Carol Gilligan’s Theory on Morality
Carol Gilligan’s theory of morality is based on the ethic of care. In this theory, an individual progresses through the ages while transforming from selfishness to demonstrating care for other members of the society. Furthermore, her theory evolved around the concept of care for others in the society without forfeiting care for self. Carol’s research denotes that girls learn lessons from whatever games they play; even hopscotch is a learning experience. The progress of women’s morality development interweaves around relationships.
Carol Gilligan’s Research
Kohlberg’s theory revolved around the situational justification that tended to the needs and satisfaction of the society even if it infringed the law. He formulated six stages of mortality development that starts from childhood and ends with mature adulthood. According to Kohlberg, boys play games where the rules are absolute while girls play games that scarcely have any rules. This develops the legal sense in men as they mature and women progress only as far as stage 3.
Kohlberg’s stages of morality development
Shortcomings in Kohlberg’s theory
Kohlberg’s theories overstate feelings of justice over law. This theory justifies actions by individuals who bear a clear conscience and receive acceptance from the society even when those actions are contrary to the law. Kohlberg’s theories also solely represent only the western cultures since his subjects for research were all westerners. His theories aren’t applicable to eastern cultures.
Moreover Kohlberg’s conclusion of moral development having multiple progressive stages lacks evidence. For example, a subject who agreed that Heinz did not commit any crime since he was trying to save a life might not accept the argument that a police officer shooting down an unarmed teenager thinking he had a concealed weapon was justified. All individuals fall back to reasoning and rationale; the third stage determined by Kohlberg. His research depended on a cross-section of children belonging to different age groups. The proper research design however, requires the same set of children being evaluated at different stages of their lives. Hence, this model is fallible.
Furthermore, the research inclines towards hypothetical behavior rather than actual behavior. There is no guarantee how an individual would react if faced with a real life situation.
Carol’s criticism of Kohlberg’s theory
Kohlberg only studied a select section of boys and men. This section was usually privileged and largely biased against women. His stage theory of moral development, the male view of individual rights and rules was considered a higher stage than women's point of view of development in terms of its caring effect on human relationships. Moreover, Kohlberg did not account for feelings such as love, compassion and non-violence; that are usually associated with women in a social ambiance. She disputed that Kohlberg’s theory of care for justice was not applicable for women. She instead proposed the care of ethics for women. Hence, Carol Gilligan strongly advocated that men and women had a different perspective for ethics.
Although times have changed dramatically, there still exists a perception of dominion over women among men. Women look to forge long term relationships in society and link all of their actions to this. Men however, scramble to solve only the situation on hand without considering the consequences most of the time. Gilligan’s “In a different voice” was an important book. It underlined the importance of conducting researches without bias and provided an in-depth understanding on how women developed their care for ethics.
Gilligan, Carol “In a Different Voice: Women's Conceptions of Self and of Morality.” Harvard Educational Review (1977). Print. P. 481 – 518.
Kohlberg, Lawrence “The psychology of moral development: the nature and validity of moral stages Volume 2 of Essays on moral development.” Harper & Row (1984). Print.
Nytimes.com. Women and men and morality, 1982. Web. 22 November 2014.