Theoretical Perspectives on Family Businesses

Theoretical Perspectives on Family Businesses

Edited by Mattias Nordqvist, Leif Melin, Mattias Waldkirch and Gershon Kumeto

Family business has become an increasingly studied field over the last decade and forms one of the fastest growing research areas today. The uniqueness of family businesses is the interaction between two systems; the family and the business systems, leading to specific characteristics that we rarely see in other types of businesses. In order to understand the interaction between the family and the business systems, researchers have adopted a diverse range of theories from different fields. The contributors provide a thorough discussion of thirteen theoretical perspectives that have been used in family business research to a varying degree. Each chapter introduces a theory, demonstrates its previous application in family business research and offers compelling ideas for future research that could contribute to both the family business field and the original theory behind it. This book aims to spark new insights for researchers and PhD students in the field of family business, and is also a good introduction for researchers who are new to the field.

Chapter 5: Behavioural agency theory and the family business

Gershon Kumeto

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, family business, organisational behaviour, organisation studies


The behavioural agency theory was developed to provide a more comprehensive explanation and prediction of managerial risk taking, in response to some shortcomings of agency theory. In general, the theory offers explanations of why decision makers prefer some strategic choices to others. The use of behavioural agency theory in family business research has, however, been very limited. Family business scholars recently adapted this theory to construct the family business variant, the ‘socioemotional wealth’ construct, which offers better explanations for the risk taking and decision making behaviours of family firms. This chapter provides an overview of behavioural agency theory and the socioemotional wealth construct, explores how they have been used in family business research, and offers suggestions for how this theory can be used in further research to contribute to both the family business and the general management literature. Keywords: family business, behavioural agency theory, socioemotional wealth, family firm heterogeneity

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