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Social Consequences of Breaking Online Emotional Display Rules: A Mixed-Methods Study in Partnership with African American Adolescent Males

Galletta Horner, Christy (2017) Social Consequences of Breaking Online Emotional Display Rules: A Mixed-Methods Study in Partnership with African American Adolescent Males. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The advent of social media has introduced a powerful new context for emotional development, which is particularly important for adolescents. Emotional development is especially active and susceptible to peer influences during adolescence, and by 2014, almost all U.S. teens reported using social media. Building a knowledge base about adolescents’ emotional lives online could inform practice in ways that improve outcomes for youth, but research on emotional interactions via social media is in its infancy. This mixed-methods, exploratory taxonomy development study first qualitatively explored how African American adolescent boys defined emotional display rules online, and then used experimental methods to investigate the perceived social consequences of breaking these display rules. A total of 50 adolescents (mean age = 15.8) participated; of these, 10 acted as youth research partners who engaged in focus groups to help design research materials and interpret results, and 40 others engaged in experimental procedures and individual interviews. Through inductive qualitative analysis, we developed a taxonomy of emotional display rules around anger, sadness, embarrassment, and excitement. Some particularly salient display rules centered on anger. For example, one emergent display rule was: expressions of anger that are violent in nature are not socially acceptable. Results from the within-subjects experiment using simulated social media interactions suggest that youth perceive social consequences for fictional characters who broke display rules. Ratings of likeability were significantly different among four characters; the emotionally neutral was the most liked character, whereas youth rated the three characters who violated specific display rules significantly lower. The character who violated the anger display rule received the lowest ratings. Characters who violated display rules also garnered less sympathy when they posted about the death of a friend, and participants’ response intentions to these posts differed among characters. Findings suggest that breaking certain online emotional display rules can harm peer relationships. With knowledge about the nature and consequences of African American adolescent boys’ emotional interactions via social networking sites, adults across developmental settings (e.g., school and after school programs) will be positioned to help youth become more intentional about online expressions and responses.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Galletta Horner, Christycgallet@bgsu.educhristyg0000-0003-2368-6984
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAkiva, Thomastomakiva@pitt.edutomakiva0000-0003-1872-0316
Committee MemberGalla, Briangallabri@pitt.edugallabri
Committee MemberRussell, Jenniferjrussel@pitt.edujrussel
Committee MemberBundick,
Date: 22 May 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 April 2017
Approval Date: 22 May 2017
Submission Date: 22 May 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 161
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Psychology in Education
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: display rules, emotional development, adolescent development, social media, online social network, African American males, toxic masculinity, Facebook
Date Deposited: 22 May 2017 14:29
Last Modified: 22 May 2017 14:29


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