Gender differences in moral reasoning

Kay Bussey*, Betty Maughan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Explored the possibility that socialization into different sex roles for men and women may contribute to the observed sex difference in moral development. 40 undergraduates were classified as either masculine, feminine, or androgynous according to the Bem Sex-Role Inventory and were administered the Moral Judgment Interview (MJI). For half the Ss, the central character in the MJI dilemmas was a male and for the remaining half, a female. Results reveal that males, when judging from the perspective of a female character, provided reasons for her actions congruent with the Stage 3 level of moral reasoning. However, for the same action portrayed by a male character, reasons for his behavior were in accord with Stage 4. No difference for the female judges was found between the characters of either sex. Regardless of the protagonist's sex, Ss scored at Stage 3. Ss' moral reasoning did not differ according to their sex-role classification. Males, however, held more strongly than females the belief that male decisions on morality are based on law-and-order reasoning, and female decisions are made from an emotional perspective. (15 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-706
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1982


  • sex role orientation, moral development, male vs female college students


Dive into the research topics of 'Gender differences in moral reasoning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this