Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 1542–1554 | Cite as

Moral Identity and Adolescent Prosocial and Antisocial Behaviors: Interactions with Moral Disengagement and Self-regulation

  • Sam A. HardyEmail author
  • Dallas S. Bean
  • Joseph A. Olsen
Empirical Research


Moral identity has been positively linked to prosocial behaviors and negatively linked to antisocial behaviors; but, the processes by which it is linked to such outcomes are unclear. The purpose of the present study was to examine moral identity not only as a predictor, but also as a moderator of relationships between other predictors (moral disengagement and self-regulation) and youth outcomes (prosocial and antisocial behaviors). The sample consisted of 384 adolescents (42 % female), ages 15–18 recruited from across the US using an online survey panel. Latent variables were created for moral identity, moral disengagement, and self-regulation. Structural equation models assessed these latent variables, and interactions of moral identity with moral disengagement and self-regulation, as predictors of prosocial (charity and civic engagement) and antisocial (aggression and rule breaking) behaviors. None of the interactions were significant predicting prosocial behaviors. For antisocial behaviors, the interaction between moral identity and moral disengagement predicted aggression, while the interaction between moral identity and self-regulation was significant in predicting aggression and rule breaking. Specifically, at higher levels of moral identity, the positive link between moral disengagement and aggression was weaker, and the negative link between self-regulation and both antisocial behaviors was weaker. Thus, moral identity may buffer against the maladaptive effects of high moral disengagement and low self-regulation.


Moral identity Moral disengagement Self-regulation Self-control Moral motivation Interactions Prosocial Antisocial 



Funding for this project came from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University.

Author’s contributions

SAH collected the data, conceptualized the project, conducted most of the data analysis, wrote the method and results sections, and edited the entire manuscript; DSB helped conceptualize the project, helped conduct data analysis, wrote the introduction and conclusion, and edited the entire manuscript; JAO helped plan and conduct data analysis, helped present the results in the text and tables, and edited the entire manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sam A. Hardy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dallas S. Bean
    • 1
  • Joseph A. Olsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.College of Family, Home, and Social SciencesBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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