Main Article Content

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
Vol. 7 No. 1-2 (2017), Research paper
Copyright How to Cite


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.

Cited by

Article Details


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
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
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
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
D. Miller,I. Le Breton-Miller
Challenge versus advantage in family business
Strategic Organization, 1 (2003), pp. 127-134
Miller et al., 2013
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
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
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