More firm steps Toward a New Psychology of Women--explicitly in the wake of Jean Baker Miller's keystone 1976 work, and in...


IN A DIFFERENT VOICE: Psychological Theory and Women's Development

More firm steps Toward a New Psychology of Women--explicitly in the wake of Jean Baker Miller's keystone 1976 work, and in opposition to theories of human development (Freud, Piaget, Kohlberg, Levinson) based on a male model. What Gilligan (Harvard Graduate School of Education) has to say is unstartling: women think differently from men, and give priority to care, or responsibility, rather than to fairness, or rights (""the contrast between a self defined through separation and a self delineated through connection""). On a male-based scale of psychological or moral development, therefore, women will fall short. What is arresting here is the backing Gilligan's researches give to those insights--preeminently, the dramatic contrast between male and female responses (at nine different ages, and in other, separate studies) to the same moral dilemma. . . which then ramifies through the strictly personal testimony. The moral dilemma is this: should a man named Heinz steal a drug, which he can't afford to buy, in order to save the life of his wife? Eleven-year-old Jake, construing the dilemma (as its deviser, Kohlberg, did) as a conflict between the values of property and life, discerns the logical priority of life: clearly, ""Heinz should steal the drug."" Eleven-year-old Amy appears to dither: ""seeing in the dilemma not a math problem with humans but a narrative of relationships that extends over time,"" she assumes that, if the druggist understood the wife's condition, he would respond--let the wife have the drug and let ""the husband pay back the money later."" And older women, confronted with the same dilemma (also, in studies of college students and of women considering abortion), invariably focused, like Amy, ""not on the conflict of rights but on the failure of response""--except that adolescence (and fear, then, of ""adverse judgments by others"") made them more unsure. The abortion study provided tentative evidence, however, of an intrinsically female progression ""from an initial concern with survival to a focus on goodness""; or, in terms of moral development, from selfishness to responsibility. ""When,"" in adulthood, ""the distinction between helping and pleasing frees the activity of taking care from the wish for approval by others, the ethic of responsibility can become a self-chosen anchor of personal integrity and strength."" Developmental theorists, Gilligan concludes with reason, should take note. Women will also: like Toward a New Psychology of Women, the book is simple and direct--though by nature, somewhat more theoretical.

Pub Date: April 1, 1982

ISBN: 0674445449

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1982