Empathy and authenticity online: The roles of moral identity, moral disengagement, and parenting style

Blaire Morgan, Blaine Fowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Research suggests that the Internet could be considered an arena for both virtuous and vicious behaviors, with observations of enhanced perspective-taking and honest self-reflections occurring alongside evidence of cyberbullying and deceptive communications. In the current study, we explore the role of three widely recognized sources of moral behavior—moral identity, moral disengagement, and authoritative parenting—in predicting adolescents’ online empathy and online authenticity. Method: In total, 788 UK adolescents aged 11–18 years (66% male) completed measures of these key constructs. Results: Structural equation modeling results suggest that parental responsiveness and autonomy granting are positively related to adolescents’ moral identity. In turn, moral identity was positively related to both online empathy and online authenticity. Having a stronger moral identity also meant that adolescents were less likely to morally disengage, and moral disengagement was negatively related to online authenticity in adolescent females. Partial invariance across gender and age was observed. Conclusions: The findings indicate that moral identity encourages moral thoughts, feelings, and actions in the online environment, including being authentic and empathic. As the formation and accessibility of one's moral identity can be promoted, we discuss the implications of these findings for cultivating prosocial behavior in the online environment as well as future research avenues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of personality
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • authenticity
  • authoritative parenting
  • empathy
  • Internet use
  • moral disengagement
  • moral identity
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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