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In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development is book on gender studies by American professor Carol Gilligan, published in 1982, which Harvard University Press in March 2012 called "the little book that started a revolution".

In the book, Gilligan criticized Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development of children. Kohlberg had argued that girls on average reached a lower level of moral development than boys did. Gilligan noted that the participants in Kohlberg's basic study were largely male. She also stated that the scoring method Kohlberg used tended to favor a principled way of reasoning (one more common to boys) over a moral argumentation concentrating on relations, which would be more amenable to girls.[1]

Some have critiqued the work. Christina Hoff Sommers argues in The War Against Boys that "Gilligan has failed to produce the data for her research". Gilligan argued in response that "her findings have been published in leading journals and that Sommers' points are not accurate".[2] In her article "Power, Resistance and Science", Naomi Weisstein makes a general argument against what she describes as "feminist psychologists" who "put forth a notion of female difference which, while no longer biologically based, is nevertheless essentialist, or at least highly decontextualized, for example, Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (1982); Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace (1990). That is, they assume that female difference is fixed, rather than contingent on social context."[3]

Theory[edit | edit source]

A different voice is a communication theory derived from the book, In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan. The theory is a 'moral development which claims that women tend to think and speak in a different way than men when they confront ethical dilemmas.[4]' This theory also suggests the feminine ethic of care and the masculine ethic of justice.

Gender Differences[edit | edit source]

Gilligan takes account of both men and women. Even though most of the experiences in her book suggest typical acts of women, she takes in consideration that women can also think in ways of justice and men can think in ways of caring. According to this theory, women (caring) are associated with being connected and men (justice) are associate with being impersonal.

Images of Self[edit | edit source]

When Gilligan asked women, "How would you describe yourself?" she found that women define who they are by describing relationships. Men defined themselves by separation, or the use of "I" statements. Gilligan compares this study to childhood fairytales. Men fantasize about slaying dragons, where women would fantasize about a relationship. She also found that men think in more violent terms than women. "Justice is ultimate moral maturity for adolescents (usually male) who see themselves as autonomous. Care is the ultimate responsibility of adolescents (usually female) who see themselves as linked to others.[4]"

The Masculine Ascent Up the Steps of Justice[edit | edit source]

Gilligan believes that psychology wants to think of women as men. This is described as something being "wrong" with women for not following the path laid out for men. Lawrence Kohlberg measured ethical maturity in moral dilemmas.

Not All People Are Men[edit | edit source]

Gilligan found, while using Kohlberg's model, that men typically think in formulas of peoples' rights, like a math problem. And in turn, women are more uncomfortable responding to ethical dilemmas. When looking at situation, men will ask of themselves what is the "right" answer. They will ask themselves the why, what, when questions. Women, on the other hand, will tend to solve an ethical dilemma without trying to hurt anyone.

For Whom Do You Care?[edit | edit source]

Gilligan found three stages to maturity when studying twenty-nine women from referrals of abortion and pregnancy-counseling centers. These stages are: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. These stages are also part of Kohlberg's model.

Preconventional[edit | edit source]

The preconventional, or the orientation to individual survival, stage is to show that women are seeking "who they are." In other words, they usually felt alone in a hostile world and are unable to look past their own self-interest. In this stage, there is no thought of a "should" and women only think of what they want. During Gilligan's study of pregnant women, this stage showed this stage of self-concept.

Conventional[edit | edit source]

The conventional stage, or the goodness of self-sacrifice, is when women think of themselves as selfless and begin to care more about others. This stage allows women to find solutions where no one is hurt or choosing the victim wisely. Women in this stage change their self-image and transition to ethical thinking.

Postconventional[edit | edit source]

The postconventional stage, or the responsibility for consequences of choice, is making a choice and then taking responsibility for that choice. In this stage, women tend to take control of their lives and realizing the seriousness of a situation, especially if there happened to be a chance to involve someone getting hurt. Also, women begin to take care of others instead of just caring about themselves in this stage. They also put out a sense of morality to those around them.

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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