Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Matthew M Martin


Communication researchers know little about marital couples' public performances, or how marital couples communicate as a nonsummative whole when in the presence of important others (e.g., friends, family, co-workers). Two studies were conducted to examine marital couples' public performances from a Communication Theory of Identity (CTI) (Hecht, 1993) framework. In the first study, 153 marital couples completed self-report measures to assess how marital couples' attachment styles and relationship awareness are related to identity gaps during public performances as well as how identity gaps relate to a variety of outcomes including communication satisfaction, feelings of being understood, conversational appropriateness, relationship satisfaction, and commitment. In the second study, 46 marital couples' public performances were examined for varying degrees of communal, individual, and impersonal content themes, continual and hierarchical communication, communication integration, and nonverbal immediacy. This study also assessed how attachment styles, public and private self-consciousness, and couple identity are associated with marital couples' communication behaviors during their public performances. After interactions, marital couples completed identity gap, communication satisfaction, feeling of being understood, and conversational appropriateness measures while reflecting on their public performance. Together, these two studies introduced the study of marital couples' public performances while testing their salience to marital couples as guided by CTI. Results indicated married couples are less likely to experience identity gaps when they are similar in their attachment styles, when they are both secure in their attachment styles, when couples have a greater degree of relationship awareness, and when they communicate according to communal and impersonal themes during public performances. Identity gaps are damaging to couples' feelings of communication satisfaction, being understood, and conversational appropriateness. When identity gaps are a more common experience, married couples' ratings of relational satisfaction and commitment were negatively affected.