Family firm internationalization: Rethinking theories, methods and contexts

Open for submissions 15 May 2023


Family firms (FFs) - organizations in which one or more families have the ability to influence strategic decisions and the willingness to keep the firm sustainable across generations (Chua et al., 1999) - are the most ubiquitous form of organization worldwide, accounting for over 70% of annual global GDP. They indeed represent more than one third of S&P 500 firms in the US, over 90% of European firms, and significantly contribute to the growth of economies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa (De Massis et al., 2018; Eddleston et al., 2019).

In FFs, decision-makers face a “mixed gamble”, taking decisions weighting the potential gains and losses on their strategic options not only from an economic perspective, but also and foremost from a socioemotional wealth perspective (Gomez-Mejia et al., 2018). The simultaneous presence of economic and non-economic goals makes thus the context of FFs a great opportunity to challenge and enrich established theories in the international business field (Debellis et al. 2021; Kano et al., 2021).

The topic of FF internationalization is gaining momentum, attracting interest from scholars of different fields (Arregle et al., 2021; Rondi et al., 2022). In the last seven years, over three times the number of FF internationalization articles have been published in leading journals compared to the aggregate number published before, and more than 45% appeared in leading international business journals. Although the topic is attracting more and more research interest, there are still important yet currently overlooked research areas (please see the indicative list of anticipated themes below). In addition, the current context of global uncertainty and higher costs in international transactions makes this special issue particularly warranted and timing for carefully rethinking on the behavior of family firms in the new global scenario. Furthermore, on a methodological perspective, extant literature has mainly adopted a quantitative variance-based approach, neglecting to appreciate the fundamental role of time and context and to capture the nuances of FF internationalization process (Metsola et al., 2020; Reuber, 2016). With this special issue, we pave the way for research endeavors to address these relevant yet under investigated issues.

This special issue aims to advance theoretical, methodological and managerial contributions. Firstly, it deepens the current understanding on FF internationalization, by reconciling mixed evidence and promoting theory-integration and extension in the intersection with the international business field. It aims to enrich the current stock of knowledge on FF internationalization by problematizing and extending current theories and concepts used to explain relevant phenomena. Furthermore, this special issue paves the way for methodological pluralism and innovation that address the uniqueness and idiosyncrasies of FF internationalization phenomena. In doing so, we are strongly encouraging submissions able to address the heterogeneity of family firms and their internationalization process from different levels of analysis, embracing different research methodologies and emphasizing under-explored contexts. Finally, this issue intends to highlight the potential managerial and social impacts of FF internationalization with the aim of helping and supporting family owners and managers in their international growth.

List of topic areas

We encourage scholarship that challenges convention and reconsider theories, methodologies and practices in family firm internationalization research. We invite conceptual, methodological, and empirical (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods) contributions that address and rethink themes such as - but not limited to - the following: 

  • Cognitive and psychological microfoundations of international FFs
  • The role of individual and group cognition in shaping family multinationals' decisions 
  • The role of values and the effect of family non-economic goals on firm internationalization 
  • The relationship between innovation and internationalization in FFs 
  • FFs challenges in entry modes beyond exports 
  • Strategic alliances by FFs and post-entry governance mechanisms 
  • Intra- and inter-organizational disputes and conflict resolution mechanisms in FFs
  • The role of bonding and bridging social capital and the effects of network dynamics on the internationalization process of FFs 
  • Offshoring and reshoring decisions by FFs and governance of Global Value Chain
  • The destabilization and re-stabilization of FFs logics and routines in the firm internationalization process 
  • The role of time and context in FF internationalization 
  • Resilience and aftermath of FFs to downturns and environmental jolts 
  • The impact of political trends and governments on the international choices of FFs 
  • Methodological contributions using temporal and processual theorizing in FF internationalization research 

Submission Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscript submissions: 15 May 2023
Closing date for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2023

Guest Editors

Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki, University of Vienna, Faculty of Business, Economics and Statistics, Austria, [email protected]

Francesco Debellis, University of Vienna, Faculty of Business, Economics and Statistics, Austria, [email protected]

Christos Sarmaniotis, International Hellenic University, Department of Organisation Management, Marketing and Tourism, Greece, [email protected]


Arregle JL, Chirico F, Kano L, Kundu SK, Majocchi A, & Schulze WS (2021). Family firm internationalization: Past research and an agenda for the future. Journal of International Business Studies52 (6), 1159-1198.

Chua, J. H., Chrisman, J. J., & Sharma, P. (1999). Defining the family business by behavior. Entrepreneurship theory and practice23(4), 19-39.

Debellis, F., Rondi, E., Plakoyiannaki, E., & De Massis, A. (2021). Riding the waves of family firm internationalization: A systematic literature review, integrative framework, and research agenda. Journal of World Business56(1), 101144.

De Massis, A., Frattini, F., Majocchi, A., & Piscitello, L. (2018). Family firms in the global economy: Toward a deeper understanding of internationalization determinants, processes, and outcomes. Global Strategy Journal8(1), 3-21.

Eddleston KA, Jaskiewicz P, & Wright M (2020). Family firms and internationalization in the Asia-Pacific: The need for multi-level perspectives. Asia Pacific Journal of Management37 (2), 345-361.

Gomez-Mejia, L. R., Patel, P. C., & Zellweger, T. M. (2018). In the horns of the dilemma: Socioemotional wealth, financial wealth, and acquisitions in family firms. Journal of Management, 44(4), 1369-1397.

Kano, L., Ciravegna, L., & Rattalino, F. (2021). The family as a platform for FSA development: Enriching new internalization theory with insights from family firm research. Journal of International Business Studies52(1), 148-160.

Metsola, J., Leppäaho, T., Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, E., & Plakoyiannaki, E. (2020). Process in family business internationalisation: The state of the art and ways forward. International Business Review29(2), 101665.

Reuber, A. R. (2016). An assemblage–theoretic perspective on the internationalization processes of family firms. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice40(6), 1269-1286.

Rondi, E., Debellis, F., Bettinelli, C., & De Massis, A. V. (2022). Family multinationals: A systematic literature review to take stock and look ahead. International Marketing Review. In press.