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Carol Gilligan

Theories of Life Stages and Human Development

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Carol Gilligan was born on November 28, 1936, in New York City. She has received her doctorate degree in social psychology from Harvard University in 1964m and began teaching at Harvard in 1967. Then in 1970 she became a research assistant for the great theorist of moral development, Lawrence Kohlberg.

Eventually Gilligan became independent and began to criticize some of Kohlberg' s work. Her opinions were presented in her famous book, " In a different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women ' s Development " which was published in 1982. She felt that Kohlberg only studied " privileged, white men and boys. " Gilligan said that this caused a biased opinion against women. She felt that , in Kohlberg ' s stage theory of moral development, the male view of individual rights and rules was considered a higher stage than women's point of view of development in terms of its caring effect on human relationships. " Gilligan ' s goal is was to prove that women are not " moral midgets " , she was going against many psychological opinions. Another famous theorist, Freud thought women ' s moral sense was stunted because they stayed attached to their mothers. Another great theorist , Erik Erickson , thought the tasks of development were separation from mother and the family , If women did not succeed in this scale, then they were obviously lacking. Therefore Gilligan ' s goal was a good cause.

Her theory is divided into three stages of moral development beginning from " selfish , to social or conventional morality , and finally to post conventional or principled morality . " Women must learn to deal to their own interests and to the interests of others . She thinks that women hesitate to judge because they see the complexities of relationships.


Pre Conventional
-Person only cares for themselves in order to ensure survival
-This is how everyone is as children

In this transitional phase, the person 's attitude is considered selfish, and the person sees the connection between themselves and others.

-More care shown for other people.
-Gilligan says this is shown in the role of Mother & Wife
-Situation sometimes carries on to ignoring needs of self.

In this transitional phase, tensions between responsibility of caring for others and caring for self are faced.

Post Conventional
-Aceeptance of the principle of care for self and others is shown.
-Some people never reach this level.


Is She Wrong?

There has been some criticism of Gilligan's work and by Christina Hoff Sommers , PhD . She says that Gilligan does not have data for her research. She says Gilligan used unreliable evidence, that researchers have not been able to duplicate her work, and that the samples used were too small. She feels strongly that promoting an anti-male agenda hurts both males and females. Gilligan says that her work has been published in articles and journals and Sommer ' s points are inaccurate.

Gilligan' s Theory and Society

Gilligan's ideas are against the struggle of women against our society's idea of their " gender-determined " role. According to Gilligan , women can gain personal independence after they forget about the idea that their proper role is to overcome their interests to the interests of their husbands, children, or other people they care about. Gilligan says that in our society women really like to help others, however they should care just as much about themselves as the do about others.

Gilligan's Theory and Education

Carol Gilligan's theory helps both men and women in seeing eachother in a different perspective. In terms of education everyone should focus on it and everyone's need for education is important. A person should not put the needs of others in front of their own, especially in the case of education

Gilligan's Theory and the Workplace

A person could undergo this process of "the ethic of care" when entering a new job. The conventional stage is shown when the job is just acuired, and a good impression is trying to be made. This is followed by the conventional stage, which can be seen after developing relationships with colleagues. This might be followed by the post conventional stage when care for oneself and another colleague might be equal. (Not everyone reaches the post conventional stage)