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In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development Paperback – July 31, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0674445444 ISBN-10: 0674445449 Edition: Reissue
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Theories of moral development are not mere abstractions. They matter—to the way children are raised, to female and male self-esteem, as ammunition for personal and political attack—and that is why Carol Gilligan's book is important… [It] is consistently provocative and imaginative. (Carol Tavris New York Times Book Review)

Girls in our society learn early on that they are expected to behave in certain ways. In her 1982 book In a Different Voice, Carol Gilligan, a psychologist at Harvard University, wrote about the powerful messages young girls receive from those around them. Girls are expected to be compliant, quiet and introspective. They soon learn that they should suppress any open expression of aggression or even strong non-compliant feelings. They also learn…to value relationships more than rules. (T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. New York Times Syndicate 2000-09-22)

It has the charge of a revelation… [Gilligan] flips old prejudices against women on their ears. She reframes qualities regarded as women's weaknesses and shows them to be human strengths. It is impossible to consider [her] ideas without having your estimation of women rise. (Amy Gross Vogue)

Gilligan's book is feminism at its best… Her thesis is rooted not only in research but in common sense… Theories of human development are never more limited or limiting than when their bias is invisible, and Gilligan's book performs the vital service of illuminating one of the deepest biases of all. (Alfie Kohn Boston Globe)

A profound and profoundly important book. It poses a challenge to psychology… But it may be just what we need to revitalize our field and bring it into a more meaningful alignment with reality. (Elizabeth Douvan Contemporary Psychology)

To those of us searching for a better understanding of the way men and women think and the different values we bring to public problems and to our private lives, [this book] is of enormous importance. (Judy Mann Washington Post)

An important and original contribution to the understanding of human moral development in both men and women. Carol Gilligan writes with literary grace and a real sensitivity to the women she interviewed… Her book has important implications for philosophical as well as psychological theory. (Lawrence Kohlberg)

About the Author

Carol Gilligan is University Professor at the New York University School of Law.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reissue edition (July 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674445449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674445444
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Cindy L. on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Originally published in 1982, this book was in its 33rd printing when it was reissued in 1993. It describes the developmental differences between men and women and what that means. Harvard professor Carol Gilligan explains that male development has typically focused on separation, individuation, logic, and hierarchy. Female development, on the other hand, has emphasized attachment, relationship, connection, and communication. I had several "ahas!" while reading this book for the first time in 2003. While I've always discounted some of Sigmund Freud's work, it had never occurred to me that much of traditional psychological theory, including the work of Jean Piaget, Erik Erickson, and Lawrence Kohlberg, has also been based on observations of men, then applied to women. As a result of comparisons to male norms that don't fit their own experience, women have often felt discounted and inferior, rather than simply different. It made sense to me that these comparisons and significant developmental differences often result in women feeling selfish and guilty when focusing on their own needs, rather than those of others. It also fit my experience that men and women tend to respond differently to attachment and separation issues. According to Gilligan, men see danger more often in intimacy than in achievement, while women sense more danger in impersonal and competitive situations. Gilligan's observations have generated quite a bit of controversy over the years (as indicated by some of the previous reviews on this list!), but ring true for many women (including me), and have been used as a stepping stone for the work of many later authors.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By TDoyle8663@aol.com on December 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book challenges the traditional male dominated paradigm of moral and personal development. The hypothesis is interesting and worthy of consideration-- that instead of seeing women as inferior to men on the scales that men develop, we should learn to listen to the voices of women after they have been liberated to speak for themselves. Instead of insisting on individuation and impersonal moral principles, we need to see that maturing women will weave a morality based on the continuing texture of relationships and the ethics of caring.
The only major flaw I see in her analysis is the insufficient empirical study base. The vast majority of her findings appear to come from interviews of 29 women, hardly a cross section of women facing the issues of moral dilemmas (in this case, the abortion decision). It may turn out that her findings resonate within the larger society, but based on the research presented in this book, it lacks the empirical strength that is required of the kinds of generalizations she is making. She admits such in the fourth chapter.
Additionally, at first she seems to want to replace the Kohlberg taxonomy, yet the one she offers is not so much a replacement as it is a revision by addition.
Nonetheless, the book is valuable for the questions it poses, and should be read.
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55 of 72 people found the following review helpful By "padrighean" on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Carol Gilligan's work has the great virtue of asking the basic question - is Revealed Wisdom about ethical decision making bias free? She demonstrates that it is not. Interestingly, Stephen Covey agrees with her, something which has been overlooked by other reviewers of this book. Her final summation is that placing relationships to the larger human community over deontological abstractions about justice constitutes a higher level of ethical decision making. The book has garnered much attention as a female challenge to male constructions of ethical decision making. This is simplistic. Gilligan does indeed point out that, as Kihlberg postulated, women may be more likely than men to make ethical decisions based on responsibilites to others rather than on abstractions. She questions the validity of Kohlberg's conclusion that this is a lower level of ethical reasoning, and she questions this not on the basis of gender but on the basis of logic and ethics. (Kohlberg, by the way, never explains why he believes that justice as abstraction represents a higher level of ethical decision making than justice in context of community.) There are many cultures which hold that the highest level of ethical decision making incorporates responsibility to others. Unfortunately, neither Kohlberg nor Gilligan is an anthropologist -- nor are they ethicists. They are both psychologists and thus limited in their framework. This is not a gender issue; this is a survival issue for the human race! Stephen Covey, in his various 7 Habits of Highly Effective People comes to much the same conclusion, without discussing gender.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
First off, I personally like care ethics as an approach, and have read several books by Nel Noddings and Michael Slote to great profit. So, my dislike for this book is not borne of a dislike for care ethics. It is borne of a dislike for bad research presented as good research.

I must preface any criticism by saying that Carol Gilligan has done an interesting thing with this book, by taking on the Kohlbergian assumption that moral psychology is basically a progression leading to the moral person adapting something like a rule-based deontological approach to ethics. Gilligan rightly challenges this, questioning whether the Kohlbergian paradigm owes more to a bias toward the male experience than to an impartial examination of how PEOPLE actually reason out moral dilemmas. So, Gilligan's strategy is to ask some of the same moral qeustions to males AND FEMALES to see where the differences lie, and then explain those differences not as evidence of male superiority in moral reasoning, but as two different approaches - one based on rules and the other based on relationships.

Okay, but Gilligan's research is pretty full of holes. First, her sample sizes are very small and, to my knowledge, these studies have never been replicated. Even so, the second problem is that she presents only anecdotal evidence, meaning that the reader can very legitimately question whether she cherry-picked data showing us only the results of individuals who fit her desired results.
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In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development
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