The Methodological Challenges of Researching Family-Owned Business Groups

  • Peter RosaEmail author
  • Marita Rautiainen
  • Timo Pihkala


This chapter focuses on the methodological issues of researching family business groups and portfolios. It identifies and discusses five areas which pose special methodological challenges for family business researchers. The field is still developing relevant research questions, and until these are clarified further, the field lacks an agreed theoretical framework or agenda with which to guide empirical research. This development of questions requires a period of inductive empirical studies to identify and highlight which research questions are most relevant before grounded theorizing can progress. Empirical research, however, is handicapped by definitional difficulties and the absence of large-scale secondary databases which would enable business groups and family firms to be identified for statistical comparison. Furthermore, family business groups can span more than one generation, necessitating longitudinal approaches which rely principally on the imperfect historical recollection of family members and thus requiring different kinds of triangulation. The challenges that can arise from conceptualizing, recording and analysing the wealth of material that can arise from a detailed study of the emergence and dynamics of business groups in transgenerational families are also discussed.


Methodology Family business group Portfolio entrepreneur Empirical studies Complexities 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business SchoolUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.School of Engineering ScienceLappeenranta University of TechnologyLahtiFinland

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