The Moral Justification Scale: Reliability and Validity of a New Measure of Care and Justice Orientations

Article excerpt


Research increasingly suggests that there are limitations to Kohlberg's theory of moral development. Gilligan in particular has observed that Kohlberg's theory considers abstract principled reasoning as the highest level of moral judgment, and penalizes those who focus on the interpersonal ramifications of a moral decision. Gilligan calls these justice and care orientations. The present paper describes the development of the Moral Justification Scale, an objective measure of the two orientations. The scale consists of six vignettes, of which two are justice oriented, two are care oriented, and two are mixed, incorporating both orientations. Construct validity was evaluated by expert judges and, overall, was high. Cronbach's alpha was .75 for the Care subscale and .64 for the Justice subscale, indicating adequate internal consistency. Split-half reliabilities were as follows: Care, r = .72, p [less than] .01, and Justice, r .60, p [less than] .05. Regarding test-retest reliability (approximately two weeks), r = .61, p [less than] .05, for Care; r .69, p [less than] .05, for Justice. Neither subscale correlated significantly with the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. Thus, the Moral Justification Scale shows promise as an easily administered, objectively scored measure of Gilligan's constructs of care and justice.


The Work of Kohlberg and Gilligan

Kohlberg (1981, 1985; Kohlberg & Kramer, 1969), using Piaget's theories of cognitive and moral development as a starting point, developed a model of moral development with six stages. Kohlberg's stages are grouped into three progressively higher levels: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. People at the preconventional level (Stages 1 and 2), primarily children, conceive of rules and social expectations as external to the self. Moral decisions are made based on expectations of reward or punishment. At the conventional level (Stages 3 and 4), people subscribe to a morality of shared norms and values, centering on the needs of the individual and the rules and expectations of others. Interpersonal relationships and concern for others' opinions are crucial (Stage 3). At Stage 4, obeying society's laws becomes central. At the postconventional level (Stages 5 and 6), moral decision-making is based on principled reasoning. Stage 5 revolves around the utilitarian maxim, "the greatest good for the gre atest number." At Stage 6, people make decisions based on universal principles of justice, liberty, and equality, even if these violate laws or social norms.

Critics of Kohlberg's model, most notably Gilligan (1982), have pointed out that his system is drawn from a Kantian philosophy that uses abstract principles of justice as the basis of advanced moral reasoning. This penalizes those who focus on the interpersonal ramifications of a moral decision. Gilligan (1981) has argued that Kohlberg's representation of women as fixated at Stage 3, which represents interpersonal morality, is flawed. Women's reasoning, according to Gilligan (1982), is contextual and deeply tied to relationships, and Kohlberg has undervalued the equally valid Aristotelian moral concerns voiced by women (Vasudev, 1988). Thus, the emphasis on justice as the embodiment of morality appears to have underestimated the impact that interpersonal connectedness can have on moral decision-making.

Gilligan set out to test the validity of a care perspective, with the assumption that it is morally equivalent to the justice construct. Gilligan's (1977) response to the apparent bias in Kohlberg's theory toward the male (justice) perspective included an alternative stage sequence for the development of females' moral reasoning. These stages are based on the degree of compassion and connection between self and others, manifested in the peace and harmony in relationships (Brabeck, 1983; Muuss, 1988).

Gilligan viewed women as progressing from initial selfishness (first level) to caring primarily for others (second level) and finally to an integration of concern for the needs of both self and others (third level). …


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