Adult life crises, sexism, and moral reasoning in female nurses




Bell, Carolyn

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The question whether female nurses utilize the same pattern of decision making across personal, professional and moral conflict situations was major in this study. The association of sexist attitudes with decision patterns and changes in pattern across adult life crisis points were of concern. Under the descriptive survey design, the sample of five American born, female nurses who were employed full time for at least 1 year in the same hospital were interviewed by the researcher to determine previous decisions and the circumstances of the decisions. The Sexist Attitudes Toward Women Scale (SATWS) (Benson & Vincent, 1980) and the Judgments About Nursing Decisions Test (JAND) (Ketefian, 1981) were administered. Analysis of the interview data was phenomenological. Descriptive statistics of the SATWS and JAND were computed. Comparison of the Patterns of Decisions revealed that (a) personal and professional patterns differed in 4 of 5 subjects; (b) some of the subjects changed decision patterns at adult life crisis points; (c) the two subjects with extreme scores were least sexist, most autonomous, and higher in moral reasoning compared with most sexist, least autonomous, and lower in moral reasoning; and (d) only one of the five was rated at the Post Conventional level of Kohlberg's (1981b) stages of moral reasoning. No other consistent associations were found. An incidental finding in discussing the JAND to determine the pattern of decision making was that the subjects consistently added or sought further information. This is consistent with Gilligan (1982) who found women qualitatively different from men in moral reasoning, suggesting that use of Kohlberg's theory is gender biased. Further study of female nurses and other female-dominated professions is needed to clarify the development of moral reasoning in women and the relationship of the moral development to professionalism of women.



Nursing, Health and environmental sciences, Female nurses, Moral development, Life crises, Sexism