Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Communication and Information



First Advisor

Dr. Brandi N. Frisby


Recently, sexting has gained popularity in both popular press and academic publications. Despite the prevalence of this communicative behavior, there is limited research that focuses on a theoretical explanation as well as how it can potentially enhance relationships. The purpose of this dissertation was threefold: to utilize the multiple goals theoretical perspective to examine sender goals when sexting, to assess if multiple goals within sexting was associated with relational behaviors and outcomes, and to develop a reliable and valid scale for sexting goals.

A two-phase study was implemented. In phase 1, participants provided actual sexting messages they had recently sent to another person, and also provided their goal when they sent that particular message. Participants also answered scales related to relationship, communication, and sexual satisfaction, affectionate communication, and relational maintenance behaviors. Analytic coding was utilized for the open-ended responses regarding message content and goals, and the researcher also used the responses to develop participant- and theoretically-driven scales. Nine themes were identified for the type of goal participants had when sending sext messages. For phase 2, the proposed scale for the multiple goals of sexting was added to the preexisting survey. The researcher coded 204 sexting messages provided by participants as instrumental, relational, or identity goals and conducted multiple regressions to assess how the type of goal influenced each of the five relational outcomes. Multiple regressions revealed no significant associations among multiple goals and outcomes. Finally, exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis was used to assess the proposed scale for the multiple goals of sexting. The EFA revealed a four-factor solution and the CFA demonstrated factorial validity for the scale. Post hoc analysis revealed significant associations for the goals from the scale and the relational outcomes. The results of this dissertation demonstrate that multiple goals are utilized in the context of sexting, and that specific goals are important for relational outcomes.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)