Moral Development Theory of Carol Gilligan

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Melanie Smith
May 10, 2012
Paper #2

As human beings grow we somehow develop the ability to assess what is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable. In other words we develop morality, a system of learned attitudes about social practices, institutions, and individual behavior used to evaluate situations and behavior as good or bad, right or wrong. One theorist, Carol Gilligan, found that morality develops by looking at much more than justice. The following will discuss the morality development theory of Carol Gilligan and its implications. Carol Gilligan was the first to consider gender differences in her research with the mental processes of males and females in their moral development. In general, Gilligan noted differences between girls and boys in their feelings towards caring, relationships, and connections with other people. More specifically Gilligan noted that girls are more concerned with care, relationships, and connections with other people than boys. Therefore, Gilligan hypothesized that as younger children girls are more inclined towards caring, and boys are more inclined towards justice. Gilligan suggests this difference is due to gender and the child’s relationship with the mother. Child development literature often provides a heated comparison of Gilligan’s theory with that of Lawrence Kohlberg’s. Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory entails the famous man “Heinz” who is portrayed to have a wife that is terminally ill. Kohlberg devised his theory by asking college aged students whether or not they would break into a drug store to steal the medicine to save his wife and why or why not. Kohlberg’s theory is comprised of three levels of moral development becoming more complex. Kohlberg’s moral development theory did not take into account gender, and from Kohlberg’s theory Gilligan found that girls do in fact develop moral orientations differently than boys. According to Gilligan, the central moral problem for women is the conflict...
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