Within the fields of the moral psychology and the psychology of women, Carol Gilligan, a developmental psychologist, has raised a number of important questions about moral psychology and has generated a great deal of research on girls and their development. Her theory about the "different voice" of girls and women, described in her 1982 book, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, has been used to explain gender differences in such diverse fields as children's play, the speech of children, adult conversation, women in academia, leadership style, career choice, war and peace studies, the professions of law, nursing, and teaching, and theories about women's epistemologies or ways of knowing.
Originally Gilligan's work was conducted in the field of moral psychology. She followed a tradition of social scientists and moral philosophers who associated moral development with cognitive development. Gilligan argued that boys and men apply rational, abstract, or objective thought to moral questions; as a result they are likely to appeal to the principle ofjustice when describing their thinking about moral issues. In contrast, Gilligan asserted, girls and women are more likely than boys and men to focus on the relationships between people and the potential for human suffering and harm. When this thinking is applied to moral issues, girls and women appeal to the ethic of care. The ethic of care, she claims, reflects women's "different voice."
In the preface written to the 1993 edition of her book, Gilligan describes "voice" as the core of the self. She calls it "a powerful psychological instrument and channel, connecting inner and outer worlds ...a litmus test of relationships and a measure of psychological health." Gilligan and colleagues in the Harvard Project on Women's Psychology and the Development of
Girls designed an interview and qualitative scoring method to study moral orientation and voice. They interviewed, held focus groups, and used sentence completion measures to examine female adolescent and adult development. They argued that girls "lose voice" in adolescence; they dissociate from their real selves, a loss that puts them at risk for depression and anxiety.
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