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Risk aversion in family firms: what do we really know?

Martin R.W. Hiebl (Institute of Management Control and Consulting, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Linz, Austria)

Journal of Risk Finance

ISSN: 1526-5943

Article publication date: 1 January 2013




Risk aversion is an important characteristic associated with family firms. Despite growing literature in recent years, a consistent picture of what we know about the risk aversion of family firms has not evolved. Thus, this paper presents a systematic overview of whether family firms are found to be more risk averse than non‐family firms, the factors influencing the risk aversion of family firms and the outcomes of risk aversion.


This paper follows the tenets of Tranfield et al. for conducting a systematic literature review. Following a keyword search and an assessment of fit for this review, 29 papers were analyzed with respect to bibliographical information, research design and findings.


Most studies find that family firms are indeed more risk‐averse than non‐family firms. However, some findings advance the notion that this phenomenon strongly depends on the situation of the family firm and that the controlling family may take irrational risks to secure control over the firm. From content analysis, five clusters of factors increasing or decreasing the risk aversion of family firms and six clusters on the outcomes of risk aversion are derived.

Research limitations/implications

A broad array of potentially fruitful research directions is presented. Specifically, more qualitative research on risk aversion in family firms is needed, as well as research that takes into account the situational factors and the reactions of the financial services industry to the risk‐avoiding behavior of family firms.


This paper represents the first comprehensive literature review on risk aversion in family firms.



Hiebl, M.R.W. (2013), "Risk aversion in family firms: what do we really know?", Journal of Risk Finance, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 49-70.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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