Theoretical Perspectives on Family Businesses
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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.
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Chapter 3: Behavioural theory and the family business

Ambra Mazzelli


More than 50 years have passed since Cyert and March’s (1963) A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (BTOF). During this time, BTOF has been adopted across different research domains to investigate how organisations set goals, how they determine aspirations and how they finally react to performance aspiration discrepancies. Cyert and March’s framework has also recently emerged as one of the dominant paradigms to understand the ways in which family business organisations make decisions. In this chapter, I review the theoretical development and empirical results of BTOF and its application in the family business field of study in order to identify theoretical and empirical gaps and propose suggestions for future research. The conclusions suggest that BTOF is both a theoretically and empirically valid perspective in family business research, particularly when combined with other theoretical frameworks. The principal recommendation is to apply behavioural theory to enhance scholarly understanding of how family organisations define their aspiration levels and respond to organisational problems. Keywords: behavioural theory, organisational aspiration, problemistic search, organisational goal, family business

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