identity formation, moral identity, health, mental health, risk taking, well-being, college student


Objectives: This study examined the roles of identity formation and moral identity in predicting college student mental health (anxiety and depressive symptoms), health-risk behaviors (hazardous alcohol use and sexual risk taking), and psychological well-being (self-esteem and meaning).

Method: The sample comprised 9,500 college students (aged 18–25 years, mean = 19.78, standard deviation = 1.61: 73% female; 62% European American), from 31 different universities, who completed an online self-report survey. Results: Structural equation models found that identity maturity (commitment making and identity synthesis) predicted 5 of the health outcomes (except sexual risk taking), and moral identity predicted ail of the health outcomes. In most cases identity maturity and moral identity also interacted in predicting mental health and psychological well-being, but not health-risk behaviors.

Conclusions: The maturity and specific contents of identity may both play unique and often interactive roles in predicting college student health. Thus, college student health might be bolstered by helping them establish appropriate identity commitments.

Original Publication Citation

Hardy, S.A., Francis, S.W., Zamboanga, B.L., Kim, S.Y., Anderson, S.G. and Forthun, L.F. (2013), The Roles of Identity Formation and Moral Identity in College Student Mental Health, Health-risk Behaviors, and Psychological Well-Being. J. Clin. Psychol., 69: 364-382.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Clinical Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

Included in

Psychology Commons