Internationalization of Family Firms as a Discontinuous Process: The Role of Behavioral Theory



Prior research on internationalization of family firms relies on an, often implicit, assumption that internationalization is a continuous process, that is, they engage in an ongoing and increasing level of international activities. However, in reality internationalization is often a discontinuous process in which firms internationalize, de-internationalize, and, potentially, re-internationalize. In the conceptual study presented in this chapter, we suggest that the behavioral theory of the firm and the four key concepts of quasi resolution of goal conflict, uncertainty avoidance, problemistic search, and learning can provide a theoretical framework for understanding family firms’ internationalization as a discontinuous process. While literature on family firms’ internationalization builds on and borrows parts of the behavioral theory of the firm like considering the notions of multiple goals and uncertainty avoidance, other concepts of problemistic search and learning have received less attention. Following a review of literature on family firms’ internationalization, we introduce new areas for empirical research and relevant research questions about family firms’ internationalization as a discontinuous process based on key concepts of the behavioral theory of the firm.


Family business Discontinuous internationalization De-internationalization Re-internationalization Behavioral theory of the firm 


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© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GroningenGroningenNetherlands
  2. 2.Jönköping International Business SchoolJönköpingSweden
  3. 3.Stockholm School of EconomicsStockholmSweden

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