Purdue University Graduate School
Kurup MS 2020_rev.pdf (711.04 kB)

Emerging Adults’ Online Gender Performance and Associations with Personality Disorder Features

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posted on 2020-12-01, 19:51 authored by Allycen R KurupAllycen R Kurup
Emerging adults, defined as ages 18-29, are tasked with continuing identity development as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. Central to identity development is gender identity development and expression, and engaging in this developmental task can relate to psychosocial functioning. One way to explore how emerging adults perform their gender is via digital communication, given that it is nearly ubiquitously used, provides unique affordances that could transform the ways that gender-stereotyped behaviors are performed, and can be naturalistically observed. Further, using co-construction and transformation theories, gender performance via digital communication can be examined in relation to offline experiences, specifically personality disorder features that may reflect gender-stereotyped psychosocial functioning difficulties.
The current study explored two questions: (1) Are masculine and feminine categories of posting behaviors, as defined by previous research, observable in emerging adults’ Facebook posts? and (2) Do these highly stereotypical online gender performance behaviors relate to personality disorder features offline? It was hypothesized that the masculine-presenting behaviors would be more prevalent in male-identifying participants, feminine-presenting behaviors would be more prevalent in female-identifying participants, and two latent factors of online masculinity and femininity would emerge. Further, it was hypothesized that extreme scores of masculinity and femininity would relate to narcissistic personality disorder features and that extreme scores of femininity would relate to borderline personality disorder features.
Using content coding of observational Facebook profile data, several behavioral categories related to gender display and performance were explored, including emotion presentation, personal talk, impersonal talk, relationship building, relationship expanding, active display in photos, and passive display in photos. These behaviors were explored by gender and in relation to narcissistic and borderline personality disorder features. The results provided very limited support for the hypotheses, namely that some feminine behaviors were more prevalent in women and related to borderline personality disorder features. These results suggest that our current understanding of gender performance must be re-examined in order to make conclusions about how gender is performed online and what implications these may have for offline personality functioning.


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Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marion K. Underwood

Additional Committee Member 2

Sean P. Lane

Additional Committee Member 3

Janice R. Kelly