• Eva Elisabeth Aspaas Skoe Professor Emeritus at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo




Carol Gilligan, Moral development, Ethic of Care Interview, Moral maturity, Religious faith and agape


This article reviews some of Carol Gilligan’s ideas on the ethics of care and justice, and describes the development and validation of a care-based moral development instrument, the Ethic of Care Interview (ECI). Following Gilligan’s theory, the ECI measures five hierarchical levels of care reasoning that involve a progressively more sophisticated understanding of human interconnection. A series of studies suggests that the ability to care both for others and oneself is a valuable human quality and an important aspect of positive adaptation across the lifespan. The link between care-based moral thought and identity development is strong, especially for women, as Gilligan suggests. Potential decisive determinants of growth in the care ethic and moral maturity are discussed. Gilligan and Erikson agree that crisis reveals and creates character. Conflict, tension and trauma are potential sources of growth and strength. Crisis and life changing events can propel people into a deeper understanding of themselves and the truth of human interdependence. Questions of morality are bound with questions of right and wrong, good and evil, and ultimately of the meaning of life itself. Why be moral? Why care? Why live? Kohlberg and Erikson say that faith and the experience of unconditional love (agape) is required to find an adequate answer to such profound questions. Both contemplated a similar higher spiritual stage of human development – a transcendent perspective beyond the universal to oneness with the whole of life, nature, cosmos or God. A potential parallel higher metaphoric ECI level is considered. It is concluded that care and justice each is a part of agape. Moral maturity involves an integration that reconciles the truths of both. Future studies and implications for moral education are suggested.


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