How has the family firm literature addressed its heterogeneity through classification systems? An integrated analysis

  • Remedios Hernández-Linares Centro Universitario de Mérida, University of Extremadura , Avda. Santa Teresa de Jornet. 38, 06800 Mérida (Badajoz), Spain
  • Soumodip Sarkar CEFAGE-UE and Department of Management, University of Évora, Palácio do Vimioso (Gab. 224), Largo Marquês de Marialva, 8, 7000-809 Évora, Portugal
  • Mª Concepción López-Fernández Facultad de CC, Económicas y Empresariales, University of Cantabria , Avda. de los Castros, 54, 39005 Santander (Cantabria) , Spain
Keywords: Heterogeneidad de la empresa familiar, Tipología de empresas familiares, Clasificación de empresas familiares, Análisis de co-palabras, Taxonomía


Extant literature recognizes both family business heterogeneity and the need to identify relevant definitional criteria to distinguish family firms, leading to the emergence of typologies, taxonomies and classification schemes. This paper presents a comprehensive review of existing classifications, which we the compare with the core conceptual elements embedded in 258 family business definitions. Our analyses enables an identification of the characteristics of the entities being classified, and then we proceed to reflect on their usefulness and effectiveness for classifying family firms. Based on the integrated analysis, we then propose some recommendations and future research lines in order to develop a workable classification of family firms.


Anderson et al., 2005 A.R. Anderson,S.L. Jack,S.D. Dodd

The role of family members in entrepreneurial networks: Beyond the boundaries of the family firm

Family Business Review, 18 (2005), pp. 135-154

Astrachan et al., 2002

J.H. Astrachan,S.B. Klein,K.X. Smyrnios

The F-PEC scale of family influence: A proposal for solving the family business definition problem

Family Business Review, 8 (2002), pp. 45-58

Basco and Pérez, 2009

R. Basco,M.J. Pérez

Studying the family enterprise holistically evidence for integrated family and business systems

Family Business Review, 22 (2009), pp. 82-95

Benavides-Velasco et al., 2013

C.A. Benavides-Velasco,C. Quintana-García,V.F. Guzmán-Parra

Trends in family business research

Small Business Economics, 40 (2013), pp. 41-57

Birley et al., 1999

S. Birley,D. Ng,A. Godfrey

The family and the business

Long Range Planning, 32 (1999), pp. 598-608

Bock, 1973

W.J. Bock

Philosophical foundations of classical evolutionary classification

Systematic Biology, 22 (1973), pp. 375-392

Brandes and Pich, 2007

U. Brandes,C. Pich

Centrality estimation in large networks

International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, 17 (2007), pp. 2303-2318

Callon et al., 1991

M. Callon,J.P. Courtial,F. Laville

Co-word analysis as a tool for describing the network of interactions between basic and technological research-the case of polymer chemistry

Scientometrics, 22 (1991), pp. 155-205

Carney et al., 2015

M. Carney,M. Van Essen,E.R. Gedajlovic,P.P. Heugens

What do we know about private family firms? A meta analytical review

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 39 (2015), pp. 513-544

Casillas et al., 2010

J.C. Casillas,A.M. Moreno,J.L. Barbero

A configurational approach of the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and growth of family firms

Family Business Review, 23 (2010), pp. 27-44

Choi et al., 2015

Y.R. Choi,S.A. Zahra,T. Yoshikawa,B.H. Han

Family ownership and RandD investment: The role of growth opportunities and business group membership

Journal of Business Research, 68 (2015), pp. 1053-1061

Chrisman et al., 2012

J.J. Chrisman,J.H. Chua,A.W. Pearson,T. Barnett

Family involvement, family influence, and family-centered non-economic goals in small firms

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36 (2012), pp. 267-293

Chrisman et al., 2003

J.J. Chrisman,J.H. Chua,P. Sharma

Current trends and future directions in family business management studies: Toward a theory of the family firm

Coleman White Paper Series, 4 (2003), pp. 1-63

Chrisman et al., 2005

J.J. Chrisman,J.H. Chua,P. Sharma

Trends and directions in the develompment of a strategic management theory of the family firm

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 29 (2005), pp. 555-576

Chrisman et al., 1988

J.J. Chrisman,C.W. Hofer,W.B. Boulton

Toward a system for classifying business strategies

Academy of Management Review, 13 (1988), pp. 413-428

Chrisman and Patel, 2012

J.J. Chrisman,P.C. Patel

Variations in RandD investments of family and nonfamily firms: Behavioral agency and myopic loss aversion perspectives

Academy of Management Journal, 55 (2012), pp. 976-997

Chrisman et al., 2007

J.J. Chrisman,P. Sharma,S. Taggar

Family influences on firms: An introduction

Journal of Business Research, 60 (2007), pp. 1005-1011

Chrisman et al., 2013

J.J. Chrisman,P. Sharma,L.P. Steier,J.H. Chua

The influence of family goals, governance, and resources on firm outcomes

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 37 (2013), pp. 1249-1261

Chua et al., 1999

J.H. Chua,J.J. Chrisman,P. Sharma

Defining the family business by behavior

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 23 (1999), pp. 19-39

Chua et al., 2012

J.H. Chua,J.J. Chrisman,L.P. Steier,S.B. Rau

Sources of heterogeneity in family firms: An introduction

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36 (2012), pp. 1103-1113

Cliff and Jennings, 2005

J.E. Cliff,P.D. Jennings

Commentary on the multidimensional degree of family influence construct and the F-PEC measurement instrument

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 29 (2005), pp. 341-347

Cobo et al., 2012

M.J. Cobo,A.G. López-Herrera,E. Herrera-Viedma,F. Herrera

SciMAT: A new science mapping analysis software tool

Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63 (2012), pp. 1609-1630 DOI:

Corbetta, 1995

G. Corbetta

Patterns of development of family businesses in Italy

Family Business Review, 8 (1995), pp. 255-265

Darwin, 1859

C. Darwin

On the origins of species by means of natural selection

Murray, (1859)

Davis, 2009 DOI:

J.A. Davis

Toward a typology of family business systems

Family values and value creation: The fostering of enduring values within family-owned businesses, pp. 127-154

De Massis et al., 2014

A. De Massis,J. Kotlar,J.H. Chua,J.J. Chrisman

Ability and willingness as sufficiency conditions for family-oriented particularistic behavior: Implications for theory and empirical studies

Journal of Small Business Management, 52 (2014), pp. 344-364

Dekker et al., 2012

J.C. Dekker,N. Lybaert,T. Steijvers,B. Depaire,R. Mercken

Family firm types based on the professionalization construct: Exploratory research

Family Business Review, 26 (2012), pp. 81-99

Diéguez-Soto et al., 2015

J. Diéguez-Soto,P. López-Delgado,A. Rojo-Ramírez

Identifying and classifying family businesses

Review of Managerial Science, 9 (2015), pp. 603-634

Doty and Glick, 1994

D.H. Doty,W.H. Glick

Typologies as a unique form of theory building: Toward improved understanding and modeling

Academy of Management Review, 19 (1994), pp. 230-251

Duriau et al., 2007

V.J. Duriau,R.K. Reger,M.D. Pfarrer

A content analysis of the content analysis literature in organization studies: Research themes, data sources, and methodological refinements

Organizational Research Methods, 10 (2007), pp. 5-34

Dyer, 2003

W.G. Dyer

The family: The missing variable in organizational research

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 27 (2003), pp. 401-416

Dyer, 2006

W.G. Dyer

Examining the “family effect” on firm performance

Family Business Review, 19 (2006), pp. 253-273

Eden, 2002

D. Eden

Replication, meta-analysis, scientific progress, and AMJ's publication policy

Academy of Management Journal, 45 (2002), pp. 841-846

Garcia-Castro and Aguilera, 2014

R. Garcia-Castro,R.V. Aguilera

Family involvement in business and financial performance: A set-theoretic cross-national inquiry

Journal of Family Business Strategy, 5 (2014), pp. 85-96

Garcia-Castro and Sharma, 2011

R. Garcia-Castro,P. Sharma

Family involvement-firm performance link: Winning configurations revealed by set-theoretic methods

Universia Business Review, 32 (2011), pp. 54-68

Hernández-Linares et al., 2014

R. Hernández-Linares,S. Sarkar,M.J. Cobo

Passing the definition of family business through the sieve. A bibliometric analysis of its evolution

The International Family Enterprise Research Academy, Lappeenranta, Finland, (2014, June)

Paper presented at IFERA Annual Conference

Holt et al., 2010

D.T. Holt,M.W. Rutherford,D.F. Kuratko

Advancing the field of family business research: Further testing the measurement properties of the F-PEC

Family Business Review, 23 (2010), pp. 76-88

Kellermanns et al., 2012

F.W. Kellermanns,K.A. Eddleston,R. Sarathy,F. Murphy

Innovativeness in family firms. A family influence perspective

Small Business Economics, 38 (2012), pp. 85-101

Kim et al., 2011

Y. Kim,T.Y. Choi,T. Yan,K. Dooley

Structural investigation of supply networks: A social network analysis approach

Journal of Operations Management, 29 (2011), pp. 194-211

Kim and Gao, 2013

Y. Kim,F.Y. Gao

Does family involvement increase business performance? Family-longevity goals’ moderating role in Chinese family firms

Journal of Business Research, 66 (2013), pp. 265-274

Klein et al., 2005 DOI:

S.B. Klein,J.H. Astrachan,K.X. Smyrnios

The F-PEC scale of family influence: Construction, validation, and further implication for theory

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 29 (2005), pp. 321-339

Kothari et al., 2009

S.P. Kothari,X. Li,J.E. Short

The effect of disclosures by management, analysts, and business press on cost of capital, return volatility, and analyst forecasts: A study using content analysis

The Accounting Review, 84 (2009), pp. 1639-1670

Labaki et al., 2013

R. Labaki,N. Michael-Tsabari,R.K. Zachary

Exploring the emotional nexus in cogent family business archetypes

Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 3 (2013), pp. 301-330

López-Delgado and Diéguez-Soto, 2015

P. López-Delgado,J. Diéguez-Soto

Lone founders, types of private family businesses and firm performance

Journal of Family Business Strategy, 6 (2015), pp. 73-85

López-Fernández et al., 2016

M.C. López-Fernández,A. Serrano-Bedia,M. Pérez-Pérez

Entrepreneurship and family firm research: A bibliometric analysis of an emerging field

Journal of Small Business Management, 54 (2016), pp. 622-639

Miller and Le Breton-Miller, 2003 DOI:

D. Miller,I. Le Breton-Miller

Challenge versus advantage in family business

Strategic Organization, 1 (2003), pp. 127-134

Miller et al., 2013 DOI:

D. Miller,A. Minichilli,G. Corbetta

Is family leadership always beneficial?

Strategic Management Journal, 34 (2013), pp. 553-571

Nag et al., 2007

R. Nag,D.C. Hambrick,M.J. Chen

What is strategic management, really? Inductive derivation of a consensus definition of the field

Strategic Management Journal, 28 (2007), pp. 935-955

Nordqvist et al., 2014

M. Nordqvist,P. Sharma,F. Chirico

Family firm heterogeneity and governance: A configuration approach

Journal of Small Business Management, 52 (2014), pp. 192-209

Perri and Peruffo, 2016

A. Perri,E. Peruffo

Knowledge spillovers from FDI: A critical review from the international business perspective

International Journal of Management Reviews, 18 (2016), pp. 3-27

Ritzhaupt et al., 2010

A.D. Ritzhaupt,M. Stewart,P. Smith,A.E. Barron

An investigation of distance education in North American research literature using co-word analysis

The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11 (2010), pp. 37-60

Rutherford et al., 2008

M.W. Rutherford,D.F. Kuratko,D.T. Holt

Examining the link between “familiness” and performance: Can the F-PEC untangle the family business theory jungle?

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 32 (2008), pp. 1089-1109

Sarkar et al., 2014

S. Sarkar,R. Hernández-Linares,M.J. Cobo

Winnowing wheat from the chaff: The evolution of the family business concept

Academy of Management Proceedings, 2014 (2014, January), pp. 14200 DOI:

Shanker and Astrachan, 1996

M.C. Shanker,J.H. Astrachan

Myths and realities: Family businesses’ contribution to the US Economy. A framework for assessing family business statistics

Family Business Review, 9 (1996), pp. 107-123

Sharma and Nordqvist, 2008

P. Sharma,M. Nordqvist

A classification scheme for family firms: From family values to effective governance to firm performance

Family values and value creation: How do family owned businesses foster enduring values, pp. 71-101

Smith, 2000 DOI:

C.P. Smith

Content analysis and narrative analysis

Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology., pp. 313-335

Smith, 2002

K.B. Smith

Typologies, taxonomies, and the benefits of policy classification

Policy Studies Journal, 30 (2002), pp. 379-395

Snyder et al., 2016

H. Snyder,L. Witell,A. Gustafsson,P. Fombelle,P. Kristensson

Identifying categories of service innovation: A review and synthesis of the literature

Journal of Business Research, 69 (2016), pp. 2401-2408

Sutton, 1987

R.I. Sutton

The process of organizational death: Disbanding and reconnecting

Administrative Science Quarterly, 32 (1987), pp. 542-569

The Economist, 2015

The Economist (2015): (accessed 16.07.07).

Uhlaner, 2005

L.M. Uhlaner

The use of the Guttman scale in development of a family orientation index for small-to-medium-sized firms

Family Business Review, 18 (2005), pp. 41-56

Villalonga and Amit, 2006

B. Villalonga,R. Amit

How do family ownership, control and management affect firm value?

Journal of Financial Economics, 80 (2006), pp. 385-417

Vogel and Güttel, 2013

R. Vogel,W.H. Güttel

The dynamic capability view in strategic management: A bibliometric review

International Journal of Management Reviews, 15 (2013), pp. 426-446

Westhead and Cowling, 1998

P. Westhead,M. Cowling

Family firm research: The need for a methodological rethink

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 23 (1998), pp. 31-56

Westhead and Howorth, 2007

P. Westhead,C. Howorth

‘Types’ of private family firms: An exploratory conceptual and empirical analysis

Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 19 (2007), pp. 405-431

Westhead and Howorth, 2006

P. Westhead,C. Howorth

Ownership and management issues associated with family firm performance and company objectives

Family Business Review, 19 (2006), pp. 301-316

Wright and Kellermanns, 2011

M. Wright,F.W. Kellermanns

Family firms: A research agenda and publication guide

Journal of Family Business Strategy, 2 (2011), pp. 187-198

Zahra and Sharma, 2004

S.A. Zahra,P. Sharma

Family business research: A strategic reflection

Family Business Review, 17 (2004), pp. 331-346

How to Cite
Hernández-Linares, R., Sarkar, S., & López-Fernández, M. C. (2017). How has the family firm literature addressed its heterogeneity through classification systems? An integrated analysis. European Journal of Family Business, 7(1-2).
Research article