In A Different Voice

A Psychological Theory and Women's Development

By: Carol Gilligan

Learning Theory

    The book, In A Different Voice by Carol Gilligan, lays out the study and framework for the moral orientations and development of women.  The author, Carol Gilligan, records the different modes of thinking between men and woman. The three studies Gilligan completes are the college student study, the abortion decision study, and the rights and responsibilities study. Throughout the book, Gilligan reflects on the research found in each of the three studies. Looking at the way men and woman talk about their lives, the language they use, and the connections they make, in order to understand how they see the world (Gilligan, p.2-3).



The college student study researched the individual identity and moral development of men and women in their early adult years, when discussing morality and life choices (Gilligan, p.2).


The abortion decision study was conducted on 29 pregnant women and formed a relation between experience and the role of conflict in development (Gilligan, p.3).


The rights and responsibilities study involved men and women of the same age, social class, education and occupation. These individuals were asked questions on moral conflict and choice (Gilligan, p.3).


Gilligan’s theory summarizes that men and women respond differently to morality. Due to the fact that men have always been seen as the masculine figure, holding the social power, women have often silenced their voice in fear of others feelings and the consequences of their voice. Gilligans finding are based on the above mentioned studies and outline the following



Male: Moraility is formed through masculinity, men seek justice, fairness, and rights, and impose restrictions on others (Gilligan, p.69).

Female: Morality is formed through feminitiy. Women seek the wants, needs and interests of others, including that it is imperative to care

             for others (Gilligan, p.90).




Gilligan outlines 3 stages of morality and development. The first stage is selfish, the second is morality, the final stage is post-conventional. The first stage of selfishness is the ideal of caring for the self in order to survive the transitional phase. The second stage of morality is when maternal insticts seek to care for others and their well being. The third stage is post-conventional and makes the connection between others and self. Taking note of the consequences of choices (Gilligan, p.74). Overall, women do not define themselves in the same characteristics as man. The woman's voice is distinct and is  oppressed by her own self due to the conditioning of the male dominated environment in which she has developed.