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Identity as a source of prosocial motivation in young adulthood

Sam Ariel Hardy, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The present study examined identity as a source of prosocial motivation in young adulthood. Blasi (1993) posited that identity has two components: subjective identity maturity (the degree to which individuals have hierarchically organized their identity around an essential core) and identity content (the elements most important to an individual's identity, such as values, emotions, relationships, roles, and behaviors). Mature subjective identity entails a greater sense of agency and ownership over one's identity, and greater desire to live consistent with one's core identity contents. Blasi (1993) suggests an individual has a moral identity when his or her identity is centered on moral values. The present study examined two primary hypotheses about Blasi's model of moral identity, as it pertains to prosocial morality. First, the link between prosocial identity content (i.e., the extent to which one's identity is based on prosocial values) and prosocial behavior would be moderated by subjective identity maturity, in that this association would be stronger at higher levels of subjective identity maturity. Second, prosocial identity content would remain significantly related to prosocial behavior even when accounting for differences in sympathy and prosocial moral reasoning. The sample included 91 university students, ages 19 to 35 years (M = 21.89; SD = 3.01; 80% European American; 65% female). Prosocial identity content was positively associated with prosocial behavior, but this association was not moderated by subjective identity maturity. Hence, the strength of the association between prosocial identity content and prosocial behavior did not differ significantly across different levels of subjective identity maturity. However, prosocial identity content did remain positively associated with prosocial behavior when accounting for individual differences in sympathy and prosocial moral reasoning. The study hypotheses were further explored through analyses that examined how the hypothesized associations between study variables differed across six different types of prosocial behavior (compliant, public, anonymous, dire, emotional, and altruistic). Overall, results yielded partial support for the study hypotheses, and hence, partial support for Blasi (1993) notions regarding links between identity and morality. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Personality

Recommended Citation

Hardy, Sam Ariel, "Identity as a source of prosocial motivation in young adulthood" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3176781.