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The Influence of Bad Credit on Consumers’ Identities

Qualitative Consumer Research

ISBN: 978-1-78714-492-7, eISBN: 978-1-78714-491-0

ISSN: 1548-6435

Publication date: 1 August 2017



To examine bad credit experiences in the context of identity to understand the entanglement between bad credit and the deformation of identity.


A qualitative method using depth interviews and hermeneutical analysis.


Bad credit is a major life event and plays a critical role in identity. By restricting or eliminating identity construction and maintenance through consumption, identities are deformed. Consumer identities are deformed as they are consumed by the identity deformation process as normal patterns of consumption that have built and supported their identities are disrupted and demolished. Bad credit is overwhelmingly consumptive of consumers – it consumes their time, energy, patience, lifestyle, relationships, social connections, and perhaps most importantly, it consumes their identity as it deforms who they are.

Research limitations/implications

Researchers need to examine more closely not just the creation and maintenance of identity, but also how identity is deformed and deconstructed through consumption experiences that can no longer be enjoyed.

Social implications

Government agencies may want to reexamine policies toward the granting of credit to reduce the incidence of loading up consumers with credit they are not able to pay for. The deformation of identity may result in anti-social behavior, although our study does not address this directly.


This study is different from previous work in several ways. We focus on identity deformation due to bad credit. By analyzing a crisis response that transcends the specific impetus of bad credit, we extend identity theory by developing an insight into “identities-in-crisis.” We also provide a theoretical framework and explore how consumers’ identities are deformed and renegotiated.




The author thanks the Filene Research Institute for financial support for this research and gives special thanks to the wonderful participants who willingly shared the dark secrets of their lives.


Compeau, L.D. (2017), "The Influence of Bad Credit on Consumers’ Identities", Qualitative Consumer Research (Review of Marketing Research, Vol. 14), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 51-77.



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