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Kohlberg and Gilligan Views

Kohlberg Theory: These theories are based on the sorts of reasoning and motivation adopted by individuals with regard to moral questions.



Kohlberg Theory


These theories are based on the sorts of reasoning and motivation adopted by individuals with regard to moral questions.


Lawrence Kohlberg‟s Theory


ü   According to Kohlberg, the people progressed in their moral reasoning through a series of stages. His theory is based on the foundation that morality is a form of reasoning that develops I structural stages.


ü   The three levels of moral development, suggested by Kohlberg, are:


1.     Pre-conventional level;

2.     Conventional level; and


3.     Post –conventional level.


1.     Pre- conventional level


ü   The pre-conventional level of moral development is based to derive benefits for oneself.


ü   In the first level, individual behave according to socially acceptable norms, which are taught mainly by parents and teachers.


ü   At this level, individuals are motivated mainly by their interest to avoid punishment, or by their desire to satisfy their own needs, or by the external power exerted on them.


ü   This is the level of development of all young children and some adults, who are unable to reach beyond a certain limit.


2.     Conventional level


ü   In the second level, the moral thinking and behavior of the individual are determined by the standards of their family, community, and society. That is, the norms or customs of one‘s family/community/society are accepted and adopted as the ultimate standard of morality.


ü   At this level, individuals are motivated by the desire to please others and to meet the social units‘ expectations, without bothering much about their self-interest.


ü   Thus as per the second level, individuals give more importance to loyalty and close identification with others, than their own self-interest.


ü   Many studies of Kohlberg reveal that most adults are living at this level only.


ü   The second level of moral thinking is found in society generally. That‘s why it is named as ‗conventional‘ level of moral development


3.     Post –Conventional level


ü   In the post-conventional level, the individuals are guided by strong principles and convictions, not by selfish needs or pressures from society.



ü   According to Kohlberg, these individuals are called as 'autonomous‘, because they think for/by themselves and also they do not believe that customs are always right.


ü   The people at this level want to live by general principles that are universally applied to all people. They always desire to maintain their moral integrity, self Kohlberg felt that the majority of adults do not reach the post-conventional level.

Gilligan Theory

ü   Carol  Gilligan,  a  former  student  and  colleague  of  Kohlberg,  has  criticized


Kohlberg‘s theory as male blased.


ü   She also charged Kohlberg that Kohlberg‘s studies were concluded with male samples only and also his approach is dominated by a typical preoccupation with general rules and rights.


ü   According to Gilligan, males have tendency to over-ride the importance of moral rules and convictions while resolving moral dilemmas; whereas females have tendency to try hard to preserve personal relationships with all people invlolved in a situation.


ü   Also Gilligan felt that men mostly focus their attention on content of the problem, whereas women focus their attention on the context i.e., situation of the problem.


ü   Gilligan refers her context-oriented emphasis on maintaining personal relationships as the ethics of care, and contrasts it with Kohlberg‘s ethics of rules and rights.


Gilligan‟s Levels Of Moral Development


1.     Pre-conventional level

ü   This is almost the same as Kohlberg‘s first level.


ü   That is, in this level an individual is concerned with self-centered reasoning.


2.     Conventional level

ü   This level differs from Kohlberg‘s second level.


ü   According to Gilligan, women will not hurt others and have a willingness to sacrifice their own interests in order to help others.


3.     Post-conventional level

ü   This level also differs from Kohlberg‘s third level.


ü   In this level, the individual is able to maintain balance between his own needs with the needs of others.



ü   The balancing can be achieved through context-oriented reasoning i.e., examining all facts, people and circumstances involved, rather than by applying abstract rules ranked in a hierarchy of importance.

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