Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Bridging the Gaps: Advancing the Communication Theory of Identity

Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Sandra L. Faulkner

Second Advisor

Laura Stafford

Third Advisor

Margaret Zoller Booth (Other)

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Yanqin Lu (Committee Member)

Abstract

This dissertation examines identity negotiation and the relationship between identity and communication. This social scientific study’s primary goal is to extend the focus and scope of the communication theory of identity (CTI) by introducing a new theoretical construct within CTI’s interpenetration of frames - identity bridges. The interpenetration of frames refers to the conceptualization that the frames are not isolated (Hecht et al., 2003). Instead, the frames operate, interact, and cohabitate simultaneously between and amongst each other. Identity bridges represent the ways that people respond to identity gaps (Kuiper, 2018), which are inconsistencies between individuals’ personal, enacted, relational, communal (Jung & Hecht, 2004), and material identities (Kuiper, 2019). Kuiper (2018) posited that identity bridge responses consist of psychological, behavioral, and communicative efforts to negotiate identity gaps. This dissertation aims to develop this assertion further and proposes that there are multiple identity bridges and identify these types. This study’s secondary goal is to develop a means to predict identity bridging responses, enabling a foundation to continue studying the multiple and complex facets of identity negotiation. A scale will allow the identification and measurement of identity bridges, and therefore, facilitate the ability to find associations between identity bridging occurrences and other factors. Therefore, this study’s third goal is to establish what aspects of identity and identity gaps predict different types of identity bridges. I conducted four separate studies to achieve these goals. To begin, Study One developed an initial item pool through inductive analysis, using open-ended survey responses. Study One yielded 120 items established as responses to identity gaps. Using the generated item pool, studies two and three collected responses for exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis to evaluate the factor structure. Fourth and finally, a survey was conducted that allowed for construct validity assessment of the new measurement. This dissertation discusses the rationale for this research and provides past literature to historically situate identity research within the social sciences. This dissertation explains CTI and its corresponding literature, introduces the concept of identity bridges, provides theoretical support and advancement for the concept of identity bridges, describes the methods of this research, and presents a scale to measure identity bridging as a dependent variable.

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