Samantha J. Stanley & Margaret Jane Pitts (2018) “I’m Scared of the Disappointment”: Young Adult Smokers’ Relational Identity Gaps and Management Strategies as Sites of Communication Intervention, Health Communication, DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2018.1440507
While cigarette smoking is decreasing among young adults, rates of nicotine consumption through other devices, most notably electronic cigarettes, are on the rise. Framed by communication theory of identity, this study examines young adult smokers’ experiences with relational others in regard to their smoking. Focus group discussions and individual interviews convened with 20 young adult cigarette and electronic cigarette smokers revealed identity gaps implicating the relational layer of identity, including personal-relational, enacted-relational, and personal-enacted-relational identity gaps. Participants used communicative and behavioral strategies to manage relational discrepancies. The documented identity gaps and management strategies present opportunities for targeted smoking cessation interventions that amplify dissonance created through identity gaps as a motivational tactic.