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Gender Moral Orientation And Development

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As individuals, we internalize and resolve problems in different ways. Some may wonder why that is and how moral reasoning came to be in every individual. Those questions have been theoretically “ answered “ by two psychologists: Piaget and Kohlberg. Piaget’s theory set a foundation for moral development, consisting of three levels of morality: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional (Moral Development). Kohlberg built onto Piaget’s foundation by introducing two sublevels in each stage, resulting in six stages in total. Although Kohlberg’s addition was extremely helpful in different aspects of studies (Moral Development). Feminist psychologist, Carol Gilligan, discovered flaws in his method of study. By her findings, this led to the idea of differences in moral development between men and women.

Gilligan noticed in Kohlberg’s study that he only used male subjects. She deemed his study as “ biased “ and began her own theoretical study of moral development (Betterhelp). In her study, she included both male and female subjects. By including both sexes, she came to the conclusion that men are justice-based and women are care based (Betterhelp). The results concluded that women differ from males by how they solve problems, which is why they believed that Kohlberg only used male subjects (Rothbart). Women are more likely to find solutions through avenues related to caring and personal relationships. They use creative approaches to settling disputes in order to keep every individual happy. Ideally, this is thought to be cultivated by the upbringing of girls and their relationship with their mothers. Another idea is that girls have more positive feedback from their surroundings when developing also. Since females maintain their relationship with their mothers, they don’t pay mind to unfairness (Gilligan, Carol). Unity within the community and the fear of causing problems in personal relationships is best avoided even at their own expense. As being said, boys tend to disconnect with their mothers during development. The disconnection causes boys to notice the sense of unfairness and inequality between individuals (Gilligan, Carol). Personal relations are not the main priority as it is for girls, but the sense of justice when deciphering right from wrong. For example, committing adultery in a marriage. If a husband were to cheat on his wife, the wife is more likely to put her feelings aside at the expense of the family staying together. This decision is made because a divorce would cause disruption and separation between the kids and surrounding family members. The wife is most likely to look into marriage counseling and moving past the action of the husband. Switching roles, if a wife cheated on her husband, he would most likely file for a divorce. It is universally known that adultery is morally wrong and unacceptable. Therefore, even at the expense of the family, the marriage cannot be fixed. Adultery is just a small scenario out of many but, it gives an idea of the moral differences between male and females.

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As established by Gilligan’s study, moral orientation between male and females is care vs justice. When her theory is applied to Kohlberg’s stages, this ranked men at stages 5/6 and women at 3/ 4 (Gilligan, Carol). This deemed men superior to women, a result that was upsetting to some people, especially feminist. However, the idea that women’s care based morality when going about conflicts was more effective and far more productive than men’s, ultimately making them superior. The title of superiority is due to the fact that women are more open to ideas and approaching situations with different solutions instead. Even though both sides can argue of superiority, it is all based on biased views. Instead of looking at who is inferior and superior, the differences between the genders should be looked as compliments to each other. That being said, to say that all women are care based and men are justice based is stereotypical. Men and women can hold traits of both. Some situations can be handled better in more of a caring manner as others rule-based. Example being if a stranger drops his or her wallet on the ground, a woman notices and picks it up. When looking inside, she discovers a large amount of cash. The moral question being asked is, “ should I return it to its rightful owner? “ or “ I’m struggling financially and this could help put dinner on the table.” Would it be morally acceptable since she’s a woman to take the cash instead of returning it due to her care morality of her family benefiting? Is care superior to justice? If it were a man who picked it up, would it be 100% factually thought that he would do the justice-based action and return it? Situations, as stated, comes down to the individual’s own ethical decisions. Not all men and women fit gender moral ideology. It would be stereotypical to say that each individual is different and can hold both care and justice based morals.

Gender orientation is not proven theoretically, but physiologically. Every individual holds their own opinion that is derived from Kohlberg’s and Gilligan’s study. Even though there are differences between the moral orientation in genders, one is not superior to the other, but mere compliments to each other. By stating one is superior to the other, this creates divisiveness between genders. This can cause disruptions and roadblocks in solving future personal, communal and justice problems.

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Gender Moral Orientation And Development. (2021, October 05). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Gender Moral Orientation And Development.” Edubirdie, 05 Oct. 2021,
Gender Moral Orientation And Development. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Gender Moral Orientation And Development [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Oct 05 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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