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Help me, I can’t afford it! Antecedents and consequence of risky indebtedness behaviour

Farah Diba M.A. Abrantes-Braga (Department of Marketing, Insper, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Tânia Veludo-de-Oliveira (Department of Marketing, FGV-EAESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 29 June 2020

Issue publication date: 31 August 2020




This study aims to develop and test a parsimonious theoretical model of risky indebtedness behaviour, a facet of over-indebtedness that refers to the behavioural tendency of often assuming hazardous debt levels.


The authors administered an online survey to credit card owners (n = 1,288) in an emerging economy in which consumer credit is characterized by extremely high interest rates (i.e. Brazil). The authors used covariance-based structural equation modelling to analyse the data and test for mediation effects.


Individuals who inadvertently consider their credit limits a part of their current income or are typically anxious about money are prone to engage in impulsive buying and, consequently, risky indebtedness behaviour. By engaging in such indebtedness behaviour, individuals weaken their financial preparedness for emergencies, which potentially jeopardizes their overall financial well-being.

Research limitations/implications

As indebtedness is a highly sensitive issue, the self-report measures used may have produced social desirability bias.

Practical implications

This study discusses the responsibility of financial institutions to support consumers in building awareness on how to adequately use financial services and to provide credit access to high-risk consumers. Policymakers need to ensure that those in the private sector play fairly.


This study adds new knowledge about how destructive financial behaviours operate and impact marketing and consumers’ financial well-being. It theorizes about indebtedness by critically examining existing and newly developed concepts in the financial services marketing literature.



Abrantes-Braga, F.D.M.A. and Veludo-de-Oliveira, T. (2020), "Help me, I can’t afford it! Antecedents and consequence of risky indebtedness behaviour", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 9, pp. 2223-2244.



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