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Moderating effects of institutional factors on relationship quality: a comparative analysis of the US, Brazil, and China

James M. Barry (Department of Marketing, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
Sandra Simas Graca (Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 8 January 2019

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019




The purpose of this research is to show how institutional factors affect buyer–supplier relationships. Specifically, the authors examine a model of relationship quality and its antecedents across rule-based, relation-based and family-based governance environments.


A conceptual model and accompanying research hypotheses are tested on data from a survey of 169 US (rule-based), 110 Brazilian (family-based) and 100 Chinese (relation-based) managers and buyers. Structural equation modeling is used to test the relationship quality framework and the hypothesized moderation of governance environment.


Results suggest that the informal institutions which shape a nation’s governance environment impact the relationship building process between buyers and suppliers. Communication quality was found to influence relationship quality more in developed economies where relationships are protected and managed under rule-based governance. Interaction frequency was found to be more relevant in emerging market firms characterized by relation-based societies. relationship benefits are applied more to relationships in emerging markets operating under family-based governance. No differences were found across governance environments for the influence that conflict resolution has on relationship quality.

Practical implications

Results provide insight into how the fairness and effectiveness of political and economic institutions surrounding a buyer’s nation of operation impact “rules of the game” differently for developed and emerging market firms.


This study extends research on cross-cultural relationship marketing to more than just communications context and cultural heritage. Results demonstrate that a buyer’s quest for legitimacy impacts its sensitivity to what supplier behaviors matter the most.



This paper forms part of a special section “Institutional environment and collaborations/consolidations in B2B”, guest edited by En Xie, Zhi Yang and K.S. Reddy.


Barry, J.M. and Graca, S.S. (2019), "Moderating effects of institutional factors on relationship quality: a comparative analysis of the US, Brazil, and China", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1339-1359.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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