Sex Differences in Adult Moral Orientations


  • The authors thank Tom Barrett, Sheree Bradford, Frances Flinn, Christa Webster, and Garth Wickens for their help with data collection and analysis, the participants of these studies for then thoughtful reflection and cooperation, and Dan McAdams and several anonymous reviewers for their advice and comments. This research was partly supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant to William Hunter, Joan Norris, and the first author, and by a strategic grant to the first and fourth authors from the same agency. Portons of Study 1 were reported at the Society for Research in Child Development Meetings, Toronto, Canada, April 1985 Study 2 formed part of an undergraduate honours thesis conducted by Christa Webster under the supervision of the first author at Wilfrid Launer University William Hunter is now at the University of Calgary.

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ABSTRACT Gilligan's (1982) hypotheses regarding sex differences in moral reasoning orientation were investigated in two samples of adults In Study 1, adults ages 18 to 75 were interviewed about both hypothetical and personal moral dilemmas Women were more likely than men overall to show Gilligan's care orientation as expected, particularly in personal reasoning However, these sex differences were not as pervasive as Gilligan argues, and were influenced by subject age, subject stage level on Kohlberg's measure of moral reasoning, and the type of real-life dilemma content recalled by subjects for discussion

Study 2 focused on the role of adult parental status as mediator of personal moral orientation differences in mid-life Consistent with the theorizing of Gutmann (1985), adult parents were shown to be sex-role differentiated in both selfconcept and moral orientation, whereas married nonparents were not Further-more, sex differences in reasoning orientations were again found to be linked to differences in the dilemma content presented by men and women These studies partly support Gilligan's theorizing, but indicate less pervasive sex differences in some groups of adults than hypothesized