The study looked into the characteristics of the moral reasoning of college students, particularly the kind of ethical orientation they use when dealing with moral issues and dilemmas. It has been theorized that males and females differ in their moral thinking in that generally males are justice-oriented and females are care-oriented. Such view questioned and challenged the validity of mainstream theories in philosophy and psychology regarding moral reasoning which are basically justice-oriented and, thus, are claimed to be gender-biased.
The study used quantitative methodology supplemented by qualitative data. Three hundred twelve college students from four schools participated in the study-one hundred forty-five males and one hundred sixty-seven females. The researcher created an instrument, which asked respondents to resolve certain moral dilemmas. Data analysis mainly involved examining the values and concepts they used to deal with the dilemmas and evaluating how they rated various reasons in support of particular moral actions.
Results of the study showed that a large portion (42%) of college students had a balanced orientation toward justice and care, while 32% are justice-oriented and 26% are care-oriented. No significant difference was found between the moral orientation of male and female respondents. Findings revealed that most college students used both justice and care perspectives in dealing with various dilemmas, meaning they can be justice-oriented in some dilemmas and care-oriented in other dilemmas. Analysis of how the students responded to various dilemmas revealed that their moral orientation is greatly influenced by the kind of dilemmas they are dealing with, rather than by personal characteristics they have such as gender and age. Results further showed that the students’ moral orientation has no correlation with their socio-cultural background and spirituality. However, there is a significant relationship between the school they are studying and their moral orientation.