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Psychological aspects of succession in family business management

Matthias Filser (Montpellier Business School, Montpellier, France)
Sascha Kraus (Institute for Entrepreneurship, University of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein)
Stefan Märk (Catholic University of Eichstätt‐Ingolstadt, Eichstätt, Germany)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 22 March 2013




Family firms appear to be an attractive topic in a number of research areas. Probably the most important topic is still the succession process combined with possible hurdles and gaps. This paper aims to focus on the special variable of the psychological dimension. It attempts to summarize findings and implications as well as suggestions for where potential research gaps are.


The paper is based on a two‐stage research design. The first step is a literature review. All articles published in the Family Business Review (FBR) between 1997 and 2011 were collected and analysed regarding their topics, findings, and implications. As a second step, this knowledge has been applied to conduct a thorough literature analysis on psychological aspects of succession.


Psychological aspects are often used together with other constructs. The authors strongly recommend handling them as an individualized, highly complex topic, even if social, political, and other aspects are often mixed with psychological aspects and therefore difficult to discuss and separate. A separation of these factors will help researchers present findings in a much clearer way.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation of the article lies in the methodology itself, as the literature review solely concentrates on empirical papers that exclusively investigate psychological aspects with regard to succession. Nevertheless, the aim was to elaborate a focused psychological field model in terms of succession. Likewise, critical aspects considering the family business system have been taken into consideration. Finally, a literature review is commonly seen as a post‐work “dead body”. However, the implications show a clear, directed focus within family business research. The authors recommend an increase in the number of concisely formulated research questions instead of generic approaches.

Practical implications

Businesses should closely heed three imperative problem areas (individual, interpersonal and organizational) as well as the stage in which conflicts arise (preparation, transfer/takeover, and continuation), if they want to be successful in the succession process.


The paper offers an overview of the limited number of existing articles and their implications that address the psychological aspects of the succession process. Furthermore, the psychological issues identified that cause conflicts during succession are consolidated and categorized.



Filser, M., Kraus, S. and Märk, S. (2013), "Psychological aspects of succession in family business management", Management Research Review, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 256-277.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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