Kohlberg/Gilligan Theory
Essay

Being a nurse places one in many difficult predicaments. They
never know what they may face with each new shift or behind each curtain. Some
days may swift by with little thought to “what will you do if?”. Other days, it
may seem like every second is filled with a moral dilemma, nursing code of
ethics, or nonmaleficence. When a nurse is required to report a child to a protection
agency, he or she may face many emotional and moral issues. According to
Kohlberg (1972), how someone handles moral decision-making determines where
they are in moral-development stages (Turiel & Rothman, 1972). When nurses
are having to make moral decisions many issues come into play. Development
within each stage of organized thought patterns of the moral dilemma is what
determines the outcomes and the stage of Kolhberg and Gilligan’s theories
(Turiel & Rothman, 1972).

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There are three levels and six stages to Kohlberg’s stages of
moral development and with Gilligan’s theory there are three stages that
correlate within his approaches (Blias & Hayes, 2015). During the
preconventional level of Kohlberg’s theory are two stages (Baxter & Boblin,
2007). Stage one is the Punishment and obedience orientation (Tanabe, 1997).
This level is based on the right and wrong behavior that is determined by what
is punishable by authorities (Taylor, 1985). A nurse would relate to this
theory by responding appropriately to mandatory requirements that require all suspected
child abuse to be reported to the appropriate agency. He or she would feel that
if they did not make the report they would be punished by either there employer
or some other type of authority. Intrumentalism/self-interest orientation is
the second stage of Kohlberg’s theory. During this theory the nurse would
relate by thinking the right action is based on wanting his or her needs met (Baxter
& Boblin, 2007). They would report the case because it was the fair and
right thing to do. To compare these stages to Gilligan’s theory which focuses on
compassion, responsibility, and obligation (Blias & Hayes, 2015). Her first
perspective is caring for one-self which correlates with stages one through
three of Kohlberg’s stages (Taylor, 1985). In this stage the nurse reporting
the child abuse would have no feelings of concern. He or she would be
disconnected from the emotional and moral aspects of the incident (Baxter &
Boblin, 2007). The nurse just goes through the motions to get the job done and
clock out.

For Kohlberg’s second level, the conventional level, stage 3 is
the good boy/nice girl stage (Tanabe, 1997). During this stage, social approval
is the motivational factors in conduct (Baxter & Boblin, 2007). During this
stage the nurse will complete the report in a timely and appropriate manner to
receive approval of a job well done (Blias & Hayes, 2015). They work
diligently to maintain their level in the group of other employees. It is all
about law and order in stage 4 which really means showing respect for the rules
and the authority (Parr & Ostrovsky, 1991). The nurse would report the
child abuse as he or she had been taught to do so because most of all it is the
right thing to do as a good nurse. During this stage of Gilligan’s theory
perspective 2, which is caring for others (Taylor, 1985). The nurse does what
is right for the child. Someone has to look out for the one who cannot speak
out for his or her self.   The nurse is
acting unselfishly and understands that it is his or her responsibility to do
what is best for the child. This perspective of Gilligan interacts with stage 5
of Kohlberg’s theory, which is in His third and final level, the
postconventional level (Tanabe, 1997). It is within this theory that social
contract exist (Blias & Hayes, 2015). One is aware of the right and wrong
values and where the law comes into play, but the person is more concerned that
the situation is taken care of in the legal and right way (Parr &
Ostrovsky, 1991). The nurse will report and go above and beyond to make the
laws fit the situation at hand. They feel that changes should be made to meet
the needs.

In the final stage of Kohlberg’s theory is the universal
ethical-principle orientation (Tanabe, 1997). During this stage one has an
increased moral reasoning and believe the right is determined by “justice and
equality of human rights” (Parr & Ostrovsky, 1991). They follow a standard
that is not their own but comes from a higher authority, for example following
the Ten Commandments (Turiel & Rothman, 1972). During this stage the nurse
would do what is right not based on his or her feelings of what is the right
thing. They would not report the claim because their job or the government was
demanding them to do it. They would do it based on their belief that
universally it is the right thing that all should do. Following perspective
three to the finish line, caring for oneself and others, the nurse would feel
there is a responsibility not only to the child but also to the nurse. Caring
becomes the main topic of making a judgmental choice (Blias & Hayes, 2015).

During each level, stage, and perspective of both theories there
is a pattern of thought processes that lead to the moral decisions one would
make. Whether it is fairness or compassion, or a combination of the two, one can
make the moral decisions that are needed in the everyday life of a nurse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Baxter, P., &
Boblin, S. (2007). The moral development of baccalaureate nursing students:
understanding unethical behavior in classroom and clinical settings. Journal
Of Nursing Education, 46(1), 20-27.

Blias, K. & Hayes,
J. (2015) Professional Nursing, Practice, Concepts & Perspectives, 7th Ed.,
Pearson NY, NY, 57-59.

Parr, G. D., & Ostrovsky, M. (1991). The
role of moral development in deciding how to counsel children and
adolescents. School Counselor, 39(1), 14.

Tanabe, J. P. (1997). Stages of moral
development and the family. Journal Of Unification Studies, 1109-126.

Taylor, S. (1985). Rights and
responsibilities: nurse-patient relationships… models of moral development…
Gilligan’s and Kohlberg’s. Image (03632792), 17(1),
9-13.

Turiel, E., &
Rothman, G. R. (1972). The influence of reasoning on behavioral choices at
different stages of moral development. Child Development, 43(3),
741-756.

  

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