Sex Roles [sers] pp599-sers-379852 August 24, 2002 17:28 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 46, Nos. 9/10, May 2002 (
The Inﬂuences of Sex and Gender-Role Identity
on Moral Cognition and Prosocial Personality Traits
and Judi Perry
The relations of sex and gender-role identity to moral thought and prosocial personality traits
were examined. Two hundred and nine men and women rated the importance of real-life,
care-related, justice-related, and mixed (both care- and justice-related) moral dilemmas. Re-
sponses on the real-life and mixed dilemmas also were scored for care and justice orientations.
Women and feminine persons viewed moral conﬂicts as more important than did men and
masculine people. On the mixed dilemmas, women scored higher than men on care reasoning,
whereas men scored higher than women on justice reasoning. Regardless of sex or gender
role, relational real-life dilemmas evoked higher importance and care reasoning scores than
did nonrelational ones. Women and persons high in femininity showed more empathic concern
for other people. Masculine persons scored lower on personal distress, whereas androgynous
persons reported more helpful behaviors than did all others.
KEY WORDS: moral orientation; prosocial personality; sex differences; gender roles.
In regard to moral reasoning, Gilligan (1982) has
argued that women are more concerned with care
and responsibility in relationships, whereas men are
more concerned with justice and individual rights.
This claim instigated much research on sex differences
in moral development stages and in moral orientation
(care vs. justice) and on differences in moral judgment
as a function of content or dilemma type (real-life vs.
standardized). Although Gilligan has been credited
with extending the moral domain to include care, her
contention that Kohlberg’s measure is sex-biased be-
cause justice is more representative of men’s moral
reasoning than of women’s moral reasoning was hotly
debated during the last two decades.
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.
Arizona State University, Arizona.
University of Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada.
University of Tromsø, Norway.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
Psychology, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1094, Blindern, N-0317
Oslo, Norway; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The controversy is merited, as researchers have
obtained mixed support for Gilligan’s assertions (for
recent reviews, see Jaffee & Hyde, 2000; Turiel, 1998).
Especially in late adolescence and young adulthood
(the age groups most frequently studied), sex dif-
ferences seem to be complex and subtle (Skoe &
Diessner, 1994). In terms of developmental stages,
there is little empirical evidence to support the al-
legation of Gilligan (1982) that Kohlberg’s justice
measure is biased against women. Walker (1984),
in his meta-analysis, reported that sex differences
in Kohlberg’s stage levels disappeared when educa-
tion and occupation were controlled. Regarding de-
velopmental levels of care, on the other hand, data
furnished by Skoe’s Ethic of Care Interview (ECI;
for a review, see Skoe, 1998) seem more consis-
tent with Gilligan’s theory. In a recent meta-analysis,
Jaffee and Hyde (2000) observed an overall effect
size for differences in ECI levels that favors females
(d =−.34). These results should be viewed with
caution, however, as only seven independent sam-
ples were included and moderator analyses were not
2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation