Managing a moral identity in debt advice conversations

Nicole Andelic* (Corresponding Author), Clifford Stevenson, Aidan Feeney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Previous research has found that stigma can be a barrier to service-use but there has been little work examining actual service encounters involving members of stigmatised groups. One such group are those with problematic or unmanageable debts. Providing advice to members of this group is likely to be particularly difficult due to the stigma associated with being in debt. Using conversation analysis and discursive psychology, this study examines twelve telephone advice conversations between debt advisors and individuals in debt. Both clients and advisors oriented to the negative moral implications of indebtedness and typically worked collaboratively to manage these issues. Clients often claimed a moral disposition as a way to disclaim any unwanted associations with debt, but could find it difficult to reconcile this with an insolvency agreement. Moreover, the institutional requirements of the interaction could disrupt the collaborative management of stigma and advisors could manage the subsequent resistance from clients in either client-centred or institution-centred ways. The findings suggest that the products offered by debt advice agencies, as well as the manner in which they are offered to clients, can either help or hinder debtors negotiate the stigma-related barriers to service-engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-648
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date5 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • advice-giving
  • conversation analysis
  • discursive psychology
  • institutional talk
  • personal debt
  • service-use
  • stigma


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