The Family Business

  • Silvia Ferramosca
  • Alessandro Ghio
Part of the Contributions to Management Science book series (MANAGEMENT SC.)


The family business is an economically relevant worldwide phenomenon. It is widespread in every industry and it takes diverse legal forms, ranging from micro, small and medium sized firms to large public companies. Its economic relevance frequently impacts more than half of the national GDP and it becomes an essential source of employment. After, presenting some facts and figures about the family business around the world, this chapter shows the two main approaches used to define a family firm, namely the essence and component approaches. We thus review more than 180 definitions of family firms and organise them within a table according to the following three main criteria: (1) Percentage of ownership held by the family, (2) Members of the family involved in management and control positions, and (3) Generational stages of the family firm. The intersection of these three criteria gives rise to other four groups of family firm definitions, theoretically proving the multidimensionality of the phenomenon. We then review the studies on family business and accounting and discuss the main theoretical framework used, with a specific focus on the transition from a mainly agency theory-based literature to the derived socioemotional wealth theory. Finally, this chapter pinpoints some early conclusions on the family business providing a bridge with the ensuing chapter stressing the relations between family firms and accounting choices.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and ManagementUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  2. 2.Department of AccountingMonash UniversityCaulfield East, MelbourneAustralia

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