Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dorsch, Nina G.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Teaching and Learning


Women school principals--Attitudes; Educational leadership--Moral and ethical aspects; Moral development


The purpose of this study was to examine the moral orientations of female principals and their processes of moral reasoning through the use of self-generated, real-life moral dilemmas. This study also examines the moral dilemmas that female administrators face and the ways in which the moral perspectives of care and justice influence their decisions. Theories developed by Erikson, Piaget, Freud, and Kohlberg were believed to be standardized models of human and moral development. Gilligan's analysis of the moral and psychological development of women found the standardized models to be problematic and biased. Utilizing Gilligan's theory and model of moral development and methodological procedures, the findings of the study revealed that (1) while female study participants articulated both a care perspective and a justice perspective, care predominated in their moral reasoning; (2) participants aligned the “self” with care or with both care and justice, and (3) in the organizing frames of relationships described in the conflicts, attachment/detachment and inequality/equality were found to be equally represented in the moral dilemmas reported. The findings of the study support Gilligan's theory and model of moral development which theorizes that women predominately utilize a care perspective in their moral reasoning. The dual alignment of the “self” with care and justice and the dual alignment of the organizing frames of attachment/detachment and inequality/equality assist in supporting that women do not stop developing morally at Kohlberg's Stage 3 level of moral development, even when the analysis of the data reveals that their morality and moral orientation is care predominant. Women, particularly in this study, possess and understand a perspective of justice, align the “self” with justice in combination with care, and describe relationships in both of the organizing frames of attachment/detachment and inequality/equality. The findings of this study support the research and further investigation of moral development, particularly women's moral development. The modification of existing models and theories of moral development assist in the support and expansion of a fully inclusive representation of human moral development.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [336]-346)


x, 380 pages




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