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Title:The relationship between adolescent identity formation and social network site use
Author(s):Drogos, Kristin L
Director of Research:Wilson, Barbara J
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wilson, Barbara J
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Tewksbury, David; Caughlin, John; Harrison, Kristen
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):social media
adolescent development
social network sites
Abstract:A majority of American adolescents use social network sites. Many adolescents access these sites multiple times a day. On these sites, adolescents engage in self-presentation by creating and managing personal profiles and by posting updates and photos. Past research has explored how much information teens share via social network sites and what motivations are behind such acts of online self-presentation. Indeed, adolescents are comfortable disclosing a fair amount of personal information online. Arguably, there are developmental reasons for adolescents’ heavy use of social network sites. Given that exploration of the self is the primary “work” of adolescence (Erikson, 1968), it stands to reason that teens’ attraction to social network sites may be related to the development of identity and self-concept. The purpose of the present dissertation is to examine the relationship between use of social network sites and adolescent identity and self-concept development. Using a mixed-method approach, two studies were conducted to explore this phenomenon. The first study consisted of a survey of 227 adolescents that investigated how self-reported patterns of Facebook use were related to identity status and self-concept. The second study was a content analysis of the actual Facebook profiles of 204 of the participants from Study 1, so that Facebook behaviors could be observed and analyzed. The results from Study 2 were used to corroborate and substantiate relationships revealed in Study 1. Both Study 1 and Study 2 revealed that adolescents who used Facebook more often, particularly by actively engaging with the site, were more likely to have an advanced identity compared to those who used the site less often. The findings are consistent with the idea that social media may offer teens a space to effectively work out their identities. Of course, it is also possible that teens with more advanced identities are drawn to social media. Furthermore, Study 1 found that the relationship between time spent on Facebook and identity status was moderated by offline parent-adolescent communication. Specifically, among those teens who had supportive communication with parents, there was a strong relationship between amount of time spent on Facebook and advanced identity status. In contrast, among teens with less supportive parent relationships, there was no relationship between time spent on Facebook and identity status. In terms of aspects of the self-concept, both Study 1 and Study 2 revealed a negative relationship between Facebook use and the degree of complexity of the self. Consistent with the idea that Facebook may stylize or constrain the expression of the self, adolescents who used the site more often had lower complexity than did those who used the site less often. Study 1 also found a relationship between adolescent self-concept and the size of an adolescent’s Facebook network. Specifically adolescents with larger and more diverse Facebook friend networks had higher self-concept clarity than did adolescents with smaller, less diverse Facebook networks. Finally, Study 1 found a relationship between engaging particular types of Facebook activities and adolescent self-concept. Adolescents who posted more status updates tended to have more complex self-concepts than did their peers who posted less status updates and adolescents who posted more photos had clearer self-concepts than did those who posted less photos. Finally, both studies documented that feedback received on Facebook was related to self-esteem. As predicted, adolescents who received more negative feedback from friends reported lower self-esteem than did those who received less negative feedback. The theoretical implications of the findings for Study 1 and Study 2 are discussed.
Issue Date:2015-12-01
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Kristin L. Drogos
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-03-02
Date Deposited:2015-12

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