Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Language and Social Psychology 28:1 (March 2009), pp. 32-61; doi: 10.1177/0261927X08325746 © 2009 Sage Publications Used by permission.


Identity implications theory (IIT) is applied to analyze how young adults manage identity concerns associated with the goals of initiating, intensifying, and disengaging from romantic relationships. Participants wrote their responses to one of six hypothetical romantic (re)definition scenarios, indicated whether they actually would pursue the relational goal if their scenario were real, and rated degree of threat to both parties’ face. Responses were coded for positive and negative politeness strategies. Participants in different relational goal conditions perceived different face threats, varied in their likelihood of pursuing the relational goal, and employed different politeness strategies. Relationship (re)definition goal also moderated associations between perceived face threats and goal pursuit as well as politeness strategies. The findings show how multiple goal theories such as IIT can be applied to situations where relational goals are primary as well as how, to varying degrees, identity concerns shape and constrain how young adults pursue relational (re)definition goals.

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