Care Reasoning in Interpersonal Relationships: Cognition about Moral Obligation and Personal Choice

By Sorkhabi, Nadia | North American Journal of Psychology, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Care Reasoning in Interpersonal Relationships: Cognition about Moral Obligation and Personal Choice


Sorkhabi, Nadia, North American Journal of Psychology


Care, interpersonal responsibilities, or helping have been regarded by some developmentalists as supererogatory matters that unlike justice do not have a fully moral status (i.e., prescriptivity and generalizability (Kohlberg, 1981; Nunner-Winkler, 1984). For example, Kahn (1992) found that children and early adolescents reason that helping another in need is kind and virtuous (good if they want to) but not morally obligatory (not imperative if they do not want to). Similarly, conclusions from research on cultural mediation of moral judgments (i.e., that moral judgments differ in accord with individualist and collectivist cultural values) indicates that the individualistic focus of adolescent and adult European Americans on self-interest leads to a truncated view of interpersonal responsibility and to judgments that caring for another in need is largely a personal choice, not a moral obligation (Baron & Miller, 2000; Miller & Bersoff, 1992; Miller, Bersoff, & Harwood, 1990).

Other scholars, however, have begun to expand the moral domain to include care-based matters of interpersonal responsibility and prosocial behavior (e.g., Carlo, 2005; Eisenberg & Shell, 1986; Gilligan, 1982; Keller, Edelstein, Krettenauer, Fu-xi, & Ge, 2005; Neff, Turiel, & Anshel, 2002). A great deal of attention and research has focused on prosocial behavior or altruism involving helping strangers, the debate regarding justice and care, and cultural mediation of judgments about care (e.g., Baron & Miller, 2000; Eisenberg, 1982; Jaffee & Hyde, 2000; Kahn, 1992). However, as others concur (Carlo, 2005; Eisenberg, Cumberland, Guthrie, Murphy, & Shepard, 2005; Neff, Turiel, & Anshel, 2002; Smetana, Tasapoulos-Chan, Gettman, Villalobos, Campione-Barr, et al., 2009), much less research has been done to delineate the factors that affect judgments or reasoning about moral obligation to help in close interpersonal relationships. The aim of the present study is to delineate the factors that affect the judgments of European American adolescents and young adults about moral responsibility in interpersonal relationships.

A literature survey suggests that at least four factors may significantly affect judgments of moral responsibility in interpersonal relationships: (a) cost-benefit involving level of cost to the agent who has to provide help vs. level of benefit to the recipient who is in need of help, (b) variations in quality of dyadic relationship, (c) existence of kinship ties, and (d) sex differences in cognition about care.

Condition of Cost-Benefit: Four Levels

Helping benefits the person who is in need but also carries cost for the agent who helps or provides care. The ethic of care rests on the principle that the person in need is not harmed by indifference and inaction and that the agent is also not unduly harmed as he or she acts to provide help (Gilligan, 1982). Therefore, in helping situations both the agent and recipient may potentially be harmed, and it is important to examine the moral implications of each. Few studies, however, have directly examined how variations in cost to agent and benefit to recipient affect judgments of moral obligation to provide help.

Mixed results have emerged from the limited number of studies that has examined cost-benefit in care reasoning. Eisenberg and Shell (1986) and Eisenberg, Carlo, Murphy, and van Court (1995) have found (in hypothetical scenarios) that in high benefit care situations in which the need of the recipient is substantial, the moral dimension of such need (i.e., harm will be sustained if help is not provided) took on greater significance than hedonistic self-interest. Similarly, Miller, Bersoff, and Harwood (1990) found that European Americans do reason that providing help in extreme need situations, involving life-threatening need, is morally obligatory but not when any other type of need that is either not life-threatening or is moderate to low exists (i. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Care Reasoning in Interpersonal Relationships: Cognition about Moral Obligation and Personal Choice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.