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Gilligan's Theory of Women's Moral Development (1982/1993)
Transcript of Gilligan's Theory of Women's Moral Development (1982/1993)
In a Different Voice
Gilligan's work is based off Kohlberg's research in response to the exclusion of women in his study.
Gilligan did not accept Kohlberg's assertion that women could not reach the same level of moral development as men (Evans et al, 2010).
Spent 30 years studying girls and their relationships.
Gilligan postulated that connections were more important than individualism for moral development.
Moral decisions were based on a balance of relationships with others and self-care (Evans et al, 2010).
Gilligan demonstrated that women use care and responsibility as the moral compass (Evans et al, 2010)
Gilligan developed three levels of moral development with two stages of transition.
Level 1: Orientation to Individual Survival
Women in this level seek to fulfill individual desires of the self (Evans et al, 2010).
Self-centeredness and the inability to distinguish between needs and wants (Baxter and Boblin, 2007).
Women will not advance past this level until there is a dilemma to make them evaluate a different moral outcome (Evans et al, 2010)
Level 2: Goodness as
Social acceptance becomes the defining identity (Evans et al, 2010).
Conventional feminine values emerge.
Will put own judgment in secondary role to maintain consensus.
Conflict is resolved in private.
In this level, the individual strives to not hurt others.
Higher Ed Implications
Possible Target Populations:
Residence Hall Populations
Health Care Students
Studies are already being conducted in the fields of Business (White, 1992) and Nursing (Harbison, 1992).
Education for Higher Ed administrators can benefit training in how to develop reasoning for moral decisions in the areas of:
Transition 1: From Selfishness to Responsibility
Connection to others begins to form and is the central issue with this transition (Evans et al, 2010).
Distinguishing need and want gives the person more choices of moral decisions.
The integration of care for others creates opportunities for doing the right thing based on others (Evans et al, 2010).
1. Theory lends itself to multiple applications across many academic fields.
2. Levels are broad enough to track growth during lengthy studies.
3. Studies can be conducted tracking students over multiple lengths of time (i.e. High school through higher education).
Transition 2: From Goodness to Truth:
Why should I put others first at the expense of my happiness?
The person's needs begin to be included with the consideration of others' needs and wants.
The person's needs are just as important but do not equate to selfishness as in Level 1.
Level 3: The Morality of Nonviolence
The woman reaches a level of morality where she doesn't want harm to come to herself or others.
Respect for self develops and the woman can evaluate multiple moral choices (Evans et al, 2010).
1. Focuses on only one gender.
2. Relatively new and can have further research performed.
3. Levels are too broad to make accurate designations of development levels.
Baxter, P., & Boblin, S. (2007). The moral development of baccalaureate nursing
students: Understanding unethical behavior in classroom and clinical settings. Journal Of Nursing Education, 46(1), 20-27.
Evans, N et al. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research, and
practice. Jossey-Bass, San Franciso.
Harbison, J. (1992). Gilligan: A voice for nursing? Journal Of Medical Ethics, 18(4),
White, T. I. (1992). Business, ethics, and Carol Gilligan's "Two Voices". Business Ethics
Quarterly, 2(1), 51-61.