Kohberg implied that average females performed worse than adolescent men within the process of moral judgment. Gilligan opposed this conviction with a theory of the difference between the reasoning of moral judgment. She explained that females tend to care more about “interpersonal connections, responsibility, and sensitivity”, which affects their perspective and moral reasoning significantly (Muuss 1988, 229). Thus, she twists Kohberg’s original claims with a theory that there is a core difference between men and women in moral reasoning.
Gilligan justifies her theory by drawing a link between the way society perceives feminine and masculine roles and the way it transcends to a different upbringing. Specifically, she talks about “two voices”, one of which corresponds to justice orientation in males, while the other one, which is more defined in women, “speaks of caring for others” (Muuss 1988, 232). Hence, through these voices men and women are entering adolescence with a different set of priorities, which results in a contrast between their moral judgment.
Gilligan’s ideas directly relate and intertwine with Erikson’s view of autonomy, which creates a bigger picture. To be precise, the male voice focuses on justice and power, which gives male children a sense of deeper control and further autonomy. Female voice points out interpersonal connections and care, which is more internal to female children. This way, the difference between the upbringing of male and female children can lead not only to differing reasoning but to contrasting levels of self-assurance.
Since early childhood, I was mainly taught to be kind and compassionate by my family. As I grew older, it felt as if the focus on compassion did not change, but the verbalization of it got replaced with silent expectations and discontent reactions in cases I did not meet them. Therefore, I think that my family influenced my perception of the world in an interdependent way, as I always prioritize interpersonal connections (Markus & Kitayama, 1991, 230). I do not think it was tightly related to gender, as every member of my family seemed to have the same moral compass which they were projecting onto me.
As I grow up with this set of values, I think I will continue to pass them down to my children. I consider myself to be a social optimist, which affects my cognitive functions, and motivational and emotional components in a positive way (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014, 9). Thus, I deeply believe that empathy, optimism, and kind communication are the main factors in people’s better understanding of each other. Finally, I think that it should not depend on gender, even though there is a certain bias related to it in our society.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224-253.
Muuss, R. E. (1988). Carol Gilligan’s theory of sex differences in the development of moral reasoning during adolescence. Adolescence, 23(89), 229-243.
Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology. p. 279-298. Springer.