Targeting Young Adult Smokers' Multiple Identity Gaps and Identity Management Strategies for Behavior Change: An Application of the Communication Theory of Identity
AuthorStanley, Samantha Joan
communication theory of identity
AdvisorPitts, Margaret J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe purpose of this thesis is to determine through focus groups and individual interviews the identity gaps experienced by young adult smokers, the strategies they enact to minimize or avoid identity gaps, and contexts in which layers of identity are aligned in order to target those sites in future smoking cessation health campaign messages. Engaging in stigmatized health behaviors, like smoking, impacts the messages individuals receive from other people and the media about their health, identity, and behaviors, and the way they communicate about themselves. Michael Hecht's (1994) communication theory of identity (CTI) explains the process of enacting and shaping identities through communication and provides the framework of this thesis. Identities consist of four interpenetrating layers: enacted, personal, relational, and communal. When there is a discrepancy between layers an identity gap occurs. Identity gaps are associated with uncomfortable dissonance and negative communication outcomes. However, identity gaps also present opportunities for targeted health messages that draw attention to dissonance as a motivational tactic and offer behavior change strategies to decrease gaps. I conducted four focus groups and ten interviews focusing on the daily experiences of 20 young adult smokers. Identity gaps emerged involving all four layers of identity, though personal-enacted, enacted-relational, and personal-relational identity gaps were reported most frequently. Strategies to manage identity gaps included lying about smoking, hiding the behavior of smoking, and gauging others' reactions prior to disclosing smoking status. Participants voiced contexts and relationships in which layers of identity aligned, including around other college-age individuals and friends. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are offered, including suggestions for health messages and interventions targeting management strategies and contexts where identity is aligned in order to decrease their efficacy and thus increase the magnitude of the already pervasive identity gaps young adults smokers experience in the hopes of motivating behavior change.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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