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Keywords:

  • 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 all 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.