Debbie first appeared in the show in 2002 as a foster child sent to stay in the village with Paddy and Emily Kirk. Debbie was later to discover that she was the adopted child of second cousins Cain and Charity Dingle who had conceived her as teenagers. Debbie remained in the village with her biological family. As of October 2016, she continues to be a main character.
Throughout her time on the show the character has been involved in a number of controversial story lines. In the most noted of these, the 15 year old Debbie became pregnant with local farmer Andy Sugden, who is several years older than her. She subsequently became involved in another story in which she had a lesbian relationship with Jasmine Thomas, the niece of local vicar Ashley Thomas.
In September 2007 Debbie, her aunt Chastity, and Lexi Nicholas came up with a plan to steal a necklace worth £50,000 from a jewelry auction at home farm. Lexi cut the power and, in the dark, Debbie snatched the necklace and hid it in her jacket pocket. The three women then cut a deal with Eric Pollard to sell the necklace to him, but Debbie wasn't happy about the money being split four ways, so she and Eric concocted a plan to replace the necklace with a fake and keep the real one for themselves, so they could share the money between them, unknown to Chas and Lexi. On 14 September 2007 Lexi overheard Debbie and Pollard discussing the scam. She then had a fight with Debbie in the street. One day Jo asks Debbie to look after Sarah while she goes to see Andy in prison and Debbie surprises herself by enjoying taking care of her daughter, so Debbie has hold of the adoption for further notice. In September 2008, Debbie realised that Sarah's father Andy was abusing girlfriend Jo, after Sarah drew a picture of Andy attacking a crying Jo, although both Jo and Andy keep denying it. Debbie is currently trying to get custody of Sarah, as she is scared that she might be caught in the crossfire of Andy and Jo's fights.