Mary Zeiss Stange, Carol K. Oyster and Jane E. Sloan (2011) state that gender plays a significant role in promoting equal jurisprudence. According to the recent studies, feminism has an enormous impact on the role of gender in our society. Moreover, it is necessary to conclude that feminism and its major principles can help to better understand if men and women are fundamentally similar or different. The term feminism can be defined as “the belief in and support of the political, economic, social, and legal equality of women and men”¯, according to Stange et al. (2011, p. 537). The major principle of feminist theory is to reject gender bias and patriarchy power. Historically, men and women have been treated differently in terms of jurisprudence. Stange et al. (2011) state that “most cultures, and the schools of jurisprudence and laws arising from them treated women and men differently”¯ (p. 538). Rights of individuals were influenced by gender roles in such fields as marriage, child caring, property ownership, entering business contracts, etc. Although today gender discrimination is eliminated, there are still a number of areas in which male-centered laws and regulations are not adaptable to women, including “self-defense, pregnancy and reproductive rights”¯ (Stange et al., 2011, p. 538).
In addition, today’s feminist jurisprudence is based on liberal principles and traditions according to which premium is placed on universal human rights. Liberal feminist principle is focused on the fact that men and women are fundamentally similar and the major goal of today’s society is to give women an opportunity to actively participate is public life. Although in the United States, many barriers were successfully removed in the 1970s, and women were given a chance to actively participate in public life, today a large number of Ā women still face gender discrimination, prejudices and stereotyping (Stange et al., 2011, p. 539).
THE FIELD OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BEWEEN BOYS AND GIRLS
Taking into consideration the major domains of child development, it is necessary to discuss some similarities and differences between boys and girls. It is known that child development is divided into three broad domains, which include physical, cognitive, and emotional and social. Both boys and girls have to pass the same stages of development: physical development (certain changes in body size, appearance, physical health, etc.), cognitive and social development (changes in communication style, self-understanding, friendships, intimate relationships, moral behavior, etc.) and cognitive development (changes in intellectual abilities: language, memory, imagination, etc.), according to Laura E. Berk (2012, p. 5).
In addition, both boys and girls go through the same period of development, including the prenatal period, infancy and toddlerhood (birth-2 years), early childhood (2-6 years), middle childhood (6-11 years), adolescence (11-18 years) (Berk, 2012, p. 6). The psychologists Carol K. Sigelman and Elizabeth A. Rider (2011) state that “psychological gender differences are small”¯, but gender differences in behavior are meaningful (p. 385). For example, it has been found that “males engage in more physical and verbal aggression than females, starting as early as 17 months”¯ (Sigelman & Rider, 2011, p. 384). Males are more physically active than girls, while girls are more tactful and cooperative than boys. According to John Bancroft (2009), in today’s society there are certain differences between the behavior of boys and girls and certain differences between gender roles (p. 30).
Moreover, it is very important to discuss the development of gender identity in boys and girls. John Bancroft (2009) states that there are two main components of gender identity development: the so-called “core gender identity”¯ expressed by the individual’s recognition of his/her gender, e.g. “I am a boy”¯, or “I’m a girl”¯, and “the sense of masculinity or femininity expressed by typically masculine or feminine behavior”¯ (p. 30). This fact means that gender plays an important role in developing child’s sense of self. According to the recent studies which compared males and females, the researchers assessed a large number of functions and have found that “there were, on average, more similarities than differences between men and women”¯ (Bancroft, 2009, p. 30).
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN MORAL DEVELOPMENT
It has been found that many moral decisions are based on empathy and concern for the well-being of other people, and in many cases, these moral decisions evoke a high level of moral reasoning. Carol Gilligan states that males and females have “distinct orientations toward moral dilemmas”¯ (Bancroft, 2009, p. 39). This fact means that most women approach moral dilemmas with greater sensitivity and a strong sense of caring. As a rule, women are focused on the sense of responsibility for other people and feelings of connection to them. According to the recent studies, women demonstrate more caring behavior than men. They are kinder and more considerate than men, and emphasize the necessity to help other people, exhibit more personal distress when they face the distress in other people.
The relationship between gender and moral reasoning is a complex one. Different researchers demonstrate different findings. However, most recent research suggests that men and women do not differ significantly in their moral reasoning. Some contemporary researchers state that significant gender differences can be found in adolescents, while others are sure that “other variables, such as age and education, were more important and more closely related to moral reasoning than gender”¯ (Worell, 2001, p. 443). For example, Lawrence Walker’s study which is based on the use of Kohlberg’s moral judgment interviews, suggests that there are no significant differences between men and women in terms of moral reasoning (Worell, 2001, p. 443).