Carol Gilligan, a student of Lawrence Kohlberg
, was taken by the stage theory development approach. However, she disagreed with her mentor's ideas of the content of the moral system within which people developed. When looking at Kohlberg's stages, one can see that the focus is duty, guilt and justice, as if to say, "What are the rules to this game?"
In watching Kohlberg's investigations of women, Gilligan saw that they tended to score repeatedly lower than men. Was this true? Could women really be midgets morally? After interviewing many women making momentous decisions, Gilligan concluded that women were thinking more about the caring thing to do than what was "just and right."
In taking this stand, she was going against popular psychological opinion. Sigmund Freud believed that women's sense of moral development was stunted due to their attachment to their mothers. Erik Erikson, another developmental theorist, saw women as morally deficient unless they could suceed at their separation from mother and family.
In reply, Gilligan asserted that a woman's sense of moral development came from connections to other people, rather than separation of such. Her purpose was to find a second dimension for moral reasoning by showing that previous studies were done predominately with males in mind.
Most psychologists now disagree with the claim that men and women differ in their moral reasoning in the way that Gilligan outlines. Several studies have been done to show that men and women use both justice/reasoning and care in their moral decisions. It is now being studied by careful researches, cleaning up the trail that she blazed.