Authenticity in College-Aged Males and Females, How Close Others are Perceived, and Mental Health Outcomes

Amanda J. Wenzel, Rachel G. Lucas-Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Recently, constructs related to behaving authentically in relationships have been linked to self-esteem and depression. The current study aimed to fill an important gap in the literature by identifying several social-environmental factors that may be associated with dispositional authenticity-"the unobstructed operation of one's core or true self in one's daily enterprise" (Kernis and Goldman 2006, p. 294)-and determining whether these factors differ for males and females. Theoretical links between dispositional authenticity and perceptions of close relationship partners as more authentic and egalitarian were empirically examined. This study expanded on relational authenticity research, which has linked behaving authentically in relationships to higher self-esteem and less depressive symptomatology, to address whether females are more likely than males to display dispositional authenticity, as well as to report low self-esteem and depression when they engage in inauthenticity. Participants were 470 U. S. college students (318 female) who were recruited from colleges across the country (41 % from a liberal arts school, 31 % from a large public university) and completed questionnaires online. Path analysis indicated that both genders report more authenticity when they perceived their mothers to be more authentic; authenticity, in turn, was related to fewer depressive symptoms and greater self-esteem for both genders. For females only, authenticity was also positively related to the perceived authenticity of important nonparental adults, and a more traditional gender ideology was related to higher self-esteem; for males only, depressive symptoms were positively related to a more traditional gender ideology. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-350
Number of pages17
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Authenticity
  • Depression
  • Gender ideology
  • Self-esteem
  • Youth development


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