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Child helplines: how social support and controllability influence service quality and well-being

Willemijn van Dolen (Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Charles B. Weinberg (Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The authors investigate how employee social support impacts children’s perceptions of service quality of a child helpline chat service and the chatters’ immediate well-being. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to examine how action-facilitating support, nurturant support and emotional reflections influence the children and to test whether this impact varies depending upon the controllability of the issues discussed.


The authors develop hypotheses about the influence of social support and controllability on children’s perceived service quality and well-being. Chat conversations are coded on the social support given by the employee and the controllability of the issue. Questionnaires are collected to measure children’s service quality and well-being. Using structural equation modeling, hypotheses are tested with a sample of 662 children and chat conversations of a child helpline.


The study reveals that for children chatting about controllable issues, nurturant support and negative emotional reflections negatively influence the immediate well-being of these children. Positive emotional reflections positively influence immediate well-being. For children chatting about uncontrollable issues, nurturant support and negative emotional responses positively influence the perceived service quality.


This study contributes to the services marketing literature by broadening the current understanding of the impact of social support on children’s service quality perceptions and well-being, and by showing how this impact is moderated by the level of controllability of the issue discussed.



van Dolen, W. and Weinberg, C.B. (2017), "Child helplines: how social support and controllability influence service quality and well-being", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 4/5, pp. 385-396.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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