Compare-and-Contrast Essay on Gilligan Vs Kohlberg

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Carol Gilligan is a psychologist who has done a lot of research in regards to how women approach moral problems. Born in 1936, carol has gone up the ranks of education until she attained her PhD in 1964. (Elizabeth, 2014) Three years later she started teaching at Harvard University where she worked alongside Lawrence Kohlberg. She worked as Lawrence Kohlberg assistant, during this period she narrowed her focus to the development of the girl child up until adulthood and the moral dilemmas associated.

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Lawrence Kohlberg was an American educator and psychologist. Born in 1927, Kohlberg went through a rough time as a child. His parents divorced when he was still young and he was brought up by his father. (Elizabeth, 2014) He was a learned man; in 1958 he got his PhD in psychology from the University of Chicago. During the time when he was pursuing his masters in psychology he developed interest in Jean Piagets work. Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who was the first to make a detailed study of how children acquire understanding.

The study on evolution of human beings thinking patterns by Jean Piagets formed the basis of the study by Lawrence Kohlberg. In 1960 Lawrence came up with a six stage model that he used to illustrate individuals morality develops in stages. Gilligan was however quick to notice that the model used by Kohlberg used was as a result of data collected from male individuals only. (Elizabeth, 2014) Females were consistent at stage 3 of the model while males were at stage 4 and 5 respectively. This brought an argument across the table and one of the critiques was that the model deemed females to be morally inferior compared men.

Gilligan took time and saw it important to come up with a model that would be used to address the moral needs of females. Her model was based upon care; it had three stages. Some of the similarities in both models by Lawrence and Gilligan agree that in moral development stages are present. For one to be morally developed either male or female they have to go through certain stages that are inevitable. Both models begin with the level where one is completely focused on them, followed by a level of maturity where we evaluate standards and begin to make conclusive decisions.

The differences in both models are more distinct than the similarities. Lawrence Kohlbergs model forms its basis on the fact that human beings are under universal, justice and impartial reasoning. This requires one to be a critical thinker and practice rationality in every stage of moral development. Contrary to the argument posed by Lawrence, Gilligan shows a different picture that can relate to females. Ethics of care she argued that females are naturally caring and always feel responsible for others. (Elizabeth, 2014) She pointed out that the moral structure of females; their psychologies as well as their values are not the same as their male counterparts. The construction model of the two models also differs in one aspect. Kohlbergs model has three stages which are grouped according to age; each stage is further divided into two sub stages making his model to have a total of six stages. The first stage is from birth until nine years during this stage one is pushed to do something out of fear of being punished. The second stage follows from the age of ten to twenty years this is where actions here are triggered by what other people expect from them. The third stage is for people who are twenty years and above. This stage is characterized by rationality, logic and accurate assessments of judgments and principles. Gilligans model has three stages only(Elizabeth, 2014) S. The first stage is the pre-conventional stage. At this stage a female childs morality are about herself. In this stage are geared towards her own interest and needs. The conventional stage comes second and this is where the females begin to care about others and become selfless. This is the stage where one will care for family and friends to an extent where they begin to ignore their own needs. The third and final stage is the post conventional stage, during this stage one becomes aware of their needs and others needs and works to ensure that they are balanced. In this way it is possible to take care of your needs as well as others.

Carol Gilligan was a feminist as well, this was one of the contributing factors of her wanting to make sure that the females did not feel inferior to the men I regards to moral development of human beings. A number of male psychologists were in the position to challenge Lawrence Kohlberg but they did not because they did not see anything wrong with the first model. I can therefore argue that the sex difference between both psychologists affected the differences.

Given the chance to change any of the theories I would add and state that men are also guided by the ethic of care. Form this models males are portrayed as insensitive, ruthless human beings who do not have even an atom of love and care for anyone. But contrary to that we all know that males are caring as well though not as much as women.


Elizabeth C. (2014). Moral Development: Theory and Applications. Routlegde. Chicago. Print

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