The relationship between empathy-related constructs and care-based moral development in young adulthood
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Moral Education 39 (2):191-211 (2010)
This study examined the link between care?based moral reasoning and three different aspects of empathy?perspective taking, sympathy and personal distress. Participants were 30 female and 28 male students, ranging in age from 20 to 42 years. As expected, results showed that perspective taking uniquely predicted care?based moral reasoning levels (positively), as assessed by Skoe?s Ethic of Care Interview (ECI). Personal distress, in contrast, was uniquely negatively related to the ECI. There was a curvilinear relationship between sympathy and the ECI for women only; women at ECI Level 2 (self?sacrificing care for others) scored higher on sympathy than did all others. Moreover, women scored significantly higher than did men on the emotional aspects of empathy (i.e. sympathy and personal distress) but not on cognitive perspective taking or on the ECI. These findings support the theory that empathy plays a significant (and positive) role in adults? moral reasoning. They also highlight the complexity of sex differences in the area of moral affect and cognition. Implications for moral education are discussed
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