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The Importance of Identity Development, Principled Moral Reasoning, and Empathy as Predictors of Openness to Diversity in Emerging Adults


  • Marylie W. Gerson
  • Leanne Neilson


Programs that attempt to increase tolerance and openness to diverse cultures, religions, and ethnicities through education and exposure are popular and often successful in higher education, but at times backfire, leading instead to an increase in prejudice. The present study considered several intrapersonal and developmental factors that may be important to consider. Identity development (Measures of Psychosocial Development, based on Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development), moral reasoning (Defining Issues Test, based on Kohlberg’s theory of moral development), and empathy (a subscale of the California Personality Inventory) were tested as predictors of openness to diversity (Miville-Guzman Universality-Diversity Scale) with entering first-year university students ( n = 282) at a small, private comprehensive university. As hypothesized, identity development, principled moral reasoning, and empathy each significantly and positively predicted openness to diversity, and the combination of predictors accounted for a moderately large portion of the criterion’s variance. Implications are discussed for developing effective programs to facilitate openness to diversity in emerging adulthood.

Suggested Citation

  • Marylie W. Gerson & Leanne Neilson, 2014. "The Importance of Identity Development, Principled Moral Reasoning, and Empathy as Predictors of Openness to Diversity in Emerging Adults," SAGE Open, , vol. 4(4), pages 21582440145, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:sagope:v:4:y:2014:i:4:p:2158244014553584
    DOI: 10.1177/2158244014553584

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Johanne Boisjoly & Greg J. Duncan & Michael Kremer & Dan M. Levy & Jacque Eccles, 2006. "Empathy or Antipathy? The Impact of Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1890-1905, December.
    2. Paul D. Umbach & George D. Kuh, 2006. "Student Experiences with Diversity at Liberal Arts Colleges: Another Claim for Distinctiveness," The Journal of Higher Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 77(1), pages 169-192, January.
    3. Thomas F. Nelson Laird & Mark E. Engberg & Sylvia Hurtado, 2005. "Modeling Accentuation Effects: Enrolling in a Diversity Course and the Importance of Social Action Engagement," The Journal of Higher Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 76(4), pages 448-476, July.
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    2. Jesús Esteban Mora & Francisco Manuel Morales Rodríguez & Juan Pedro Martínez Ramón, 2022. "Attitudes toward Transsexuality, Empathy, and Bullying in Young Population," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(7), pages 1-15, March.

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