Protection As Care: Moral Reasoning And Moral Orientation Among Ethnically And Socioeconomically Diverse Older Women

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily Dakin, Associate Professor, Departmental Honors Program Director (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: This study examined moral reasoning among ethnically and socioeconomically diverse older women based on the care and justice moral orientations reflecting theoretical frameworks developed by Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg, respectively. A major gap in this area of research and theory development has been the lack of examination of moral reasoning in later life. This study addressed this gap by assessing socioeconomically and ethnically diverse older women's reasoning in response to ethical dilemmas showing conflict between autonomy, representative of Kohlberg's justice orientation, and protection, representative of Gilligan's care orientation. The dilemmas used in this study came from adult protective services (APS), the U.S. system that investigates and intervenes in cases of elder abuse and neglect. Subjects were 88 African American, Latina, and Caucasian women age 60 or over from varying socioeconomic status backgrounds who participated in eight focus groups. Overall, participants favored protection over autonomy in responding to the case scenarios. Their reasoning in responding to these dilemmas reflected an ethic of care and responsibility and a recognition of the limitations of autonomy. This reasoning is highly consistent with the care orientation. Variations in the overall ethic of care and responsibility based on ethnicity and SES also are discussed.

Additional Information

Dakin, E. (2014). Protection as care: Moral reasoning and moral orientation among ethnically and socioeconomically diverse older women, Journal of Aging Studies. V. 28 (2014), Pages 44-56, Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2014
Moral reasoning, Moral orientation, Moral development, Older women, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status

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