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Differences in the outcomes of work and family conflict between family- and nonfamily businesses: an examination of business founders.

This study examined the effects of work and family conflict on work tension for founders of family versus nonfamily businesses. Drawing on a model of conflict between work and family roles, it was predicted that founders of family businesses would experience significantly greater work tension from family-work conflict than for founders of nonfamily businesses. Conversely, it was predicted that work-family conflict would exert more negative effects on founders of nonfamily businesses than for those running family businesses. Results from a national (United States) sample of business founders supported these predictions. Implications for the management of work and family conflict in family versus nonfamily businesses are discussed.


The term "family business," by definition, connotes a unique and extensive interplay between two seemingly different domains, "the family" and "the business." This interplay is juxtaposed against nonfamily businesses, where the roles of "business owner" and "family member" may be more distinct and compartmentalized. The close relationships and interactions among family members at home and at work can present challenges to family firms, such that the interplay between family and business domains is not always seamless (Kets de Vries, 1993). Such challenges can be particularly problematic for founders of family businesses, who face financial, operational, and logistical tasks that can create conflict between the family and work domains. These challenges are magnified for younger, first generation firms, which must operate under time and resource constraints that can expand the possibility of conflict between domains. Ultimately, conflict between work and family domains can gradually become a strain on the physical and psychological health of business founders (e.g., generate work tension), adversely affecting their ability to develop and grow their family firms. The fact that there are organizations and counseling services catering to the family business to deal with conflict and resulting work tensions associated with family involvement in the business provides practical evidence of this problem (Cole & Johnson, 2012).

Researchers have argued that work and family conflict is particularly relevant to family business owners regardless of whether the conflict is rooted in family demands that reduce their ability to attend to business needs, work demands that reduce their ability to fulfill the (non-work related) needs of family members, or a combination of both (Foley & Powell, 1997; Kellermanns & Eddleston, 2004). Family business owners face additional pressures to maintain both business processes and healthy family relationships while at work (Werbel & Danes, 2010), which suggests that the means by which work and family conflict affects work-related and family-related outcomes may be different for family firms versus nonfamily firms.

Work and family conflict occurs when work demands interfere with family responsibilities (work-to-family conflict: WFC), and when family demands interfere with work responsibilities or requirements (family-to-work conflict: FWC) (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992). Work tension serves as an important indicator of the psychological and physical symptoms of distress associated with the tensions related to work, such as nervousness, problems with sleeping, and a concern for one's health (Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999; House & Rizzo, 1972). Work tension can generally be viewed as an inability to cope with workplace or family demands/expectations, interpersonal relationships at work, or structural and cultural characteristics that overwhelm a person. The purpose of the current study is to examine the extent to which WFC and FWC influence the work tension of founders of young family and nonfamily firms.

Prior research suggests that work and family conflict experienced by firm founders and the subsequent work tension they experience can be traced to the conflict that exists for such persons, given the family-related and work-related roles they occupy. In turn, the attributed source of the conflict can be explained by the role pressures and role salience associated with family and/or work (Greenhaus & Powell, 2003; Werbel & Danes, 2010). For example, family role pressures could include the need to successfully address a family governance issue or participate in an important family-related activity as the founder of the family firm. Likewise, for a founder who strongly identifies with her firm as a family business, the family role may be particularly salient. Moreover, given that family firm founders are likely to occupy family and work roles at the same time, the possibility for conflict between these roles is increased. As a result, the level of conflict and the attributions of that conflict to a particular role will be different, depending upon whether the firm is a family versus nonfamily business (Cinamon & Rich, 2002; Harvey & Evans, 1994). We contend that family business founders may view a particular role as the source of conflict, and thus their psychological strain is attributed to that conflict differently than the conflict experienced by founders in nonfamily firms.

While considerable research has examined the role of work interfering with family (e.g., Carr, Boyar, & Gregory, 2008), research findings regarding FWC and its impact on work-related outcomes have had limited study (Byron, 2005; Kwan, Lau, & Au, 2012). While research has examined work and family conflict in entrepreneurial settings (Parasuraman, Purohit, Godshalk, & Beutell, 1996), and how work and family conflict affects entrepreneurial family businesses (Danes, 2006), we have not identified any empirical studies that have explored how work and family conflict differentially affect firm founders of family versus nonfamily businesses, despite the belief that the examination of WFC within young firms is "under researched" and a "significant problem" (Werbel & Danes, 2010, p. 435). Recent research has demonstrated that in many instances firms are "born" as family businesses, whereby the founder of the firm views the business as a family firm at launch (Chua, Chrisman, & Chang, 2004). Yet research on the work and family domains of young family firms remains unexplored. Finally, recent theory on the work-family interface of entrepreneurial firms has emphasized that the "models of entrepreneurial outcomes are, to a certain extent, incomplete without attention to work-family considerations" (Jennings & McDougald, 2007, p. 747). In particular, Jennings and McDougald emphasize that research which extends their theorizing on the work-family interface should explore more deeply the complex nature of family and work roles for young firms.

As a result, our study is designed to address and contribute to several theoretical and empirical gaps, by evaluating and extending research on how founders of family versus nonfamily firms attribute work-family considerations and related conflict to their subsequent well-being. First, this examination may extend research on the relationships between family and work roles in family and nonfamily businesses, since "simultaneous pressures from both roles determine role-related behavior and ultimately the direction of work-family interference" (Greenhaus & Powell, 2003, p. 299). Second, these relationships are examined for founders of family and nonfamily businesses, with the goal of clarifying the theoretical relationships between these constructs within an entrepreneurial context. As a result, this study serves as an important first look at work and family conflict for family and nonfamily business founders, thus addressing calls that work-family relationships be examined for entrepreneurial founders (Jennings & McDougald, 2007). We hypothesize that these relationships will be different for family versus nonfamily businesses, and provide insight into how work and family conflict affects the well-being of founders within these two types of firms.

Theoretical Background

The challenges of founding a business and managing family relationships are well documented. Business owners often find different ways to cope with the immediate and long-term constraints associated with the family and work-related roles they occupy (Jennings & McDougald, 2007). In many instances, firm founders can effectively balance these constraints, and thus comfortably manage multiple roles as their business grows. However, the different expectations or requirements associated with family and work are not static--the birth of a child or the development of a new market can quickly change the time and effort that a firm founder must devote to that specific role (Werbel & Danes, 2010). When this occurs, the possibility exists that the work and family interface becomes stressed, generating and/or heightening conflict between work and family role domains.

Roles, Role Pressure, and Role Salience

Not surprisingly, the concept of a "role" is derived from a theatrical metaphor, which reflects the "parts" and "scripts" that individuals play as they engage their surroundings. Roles reflect an important aspect of human behavior--that people engage in behaviors that are different, depending upon a particular social domain or the degree to which they maintain some social identity (Biddle, 1986; Powell & Baker, 2014) individuals operate in many different domains, and construct particular roles to manage their social responsibilities in those domains (Ashforth, 2001). Roles within the family domain can include an emphasis on a commitment to family (Knoester, Petts, & Eggebeen, 2007), providing a nurturing family environment (Giordano, 2003), and a focus on family caregiving. Likewise, work roles may include a focus on business activities (Muse, Rutherford, Oswald, & Raymond, 2005) and an emphasis on achieving desirable work-related outcomes such as high firm performance and other work-related accomplishments (Kuratko, Hornsby, Naffziger, 1997).

When roles related to family and to work are in conflict, it is globally termed as work-family conflict. Work-family conflict is defined as "a form of interrole conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect" (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985, p. 77). As demands in one domain (work or family) inhibit an individual from meeting the demands in another (family or work), there will be challenges in meeting unmet role expectations and responsibilities, which result in interrole conflict. Under conditions where interrole conflict exists, the likelihood that there are negative psychological outcomes associated with the conflict is increased. Thus, there exists a positive relationship between conflict and the psychological strain (such as work tension) associated with that conflict. This relationship is part of a larger theoretical framework commonly referred to as the work-family conflict model, which builds upon roles and role characteristics as they relate to a particular social domain or are held as an important social identity (Greenhaus & Powell, 2003). In addition to the defining of work and family roles, as well as role conflict, Greenhaus and Powell further theorized how role pressures and role salience can affect the direction in which conflict is internalized. Role pressures reflect the psychological stress experienced by a person as s/he attempts to comply (or not comply) with role expectations set by themselves or others (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964). Since role pressures can emanate from a variety of work and non-work sources, they can reflect how different sources associated with the conflict is perceived, and on how that conflict affects work tension and well-being.

Role salience represents the degree of importance a person places on particular socially or internally defined roles, based upon their self-identity (Kahn et al., 1964). Research suggests that individuals tend to organize their social roles within a hierarchy, such that more salient roles are viewed with greater importance or as being more central to their individual sense of self (Thoits, 1991). Generally speaking, roles that are viewed as having greater salience are considered more valuable to a person, and therefore individuals allocate the majority of their available time and talent to meet those role expectations (Stryker & Serpe, 1994). Research examining work-family conflict has found support for the importance of role salience as it relates to the participation in work or family roles (Carlson & Kacmar, 2000; Frone et al., 1992). When taken together, role pressures and role salience are theoretically relevant concepts that help define how a person experiences work-family conflict, and how they attribute the source of that conflict, based upon the interface between work and family roles. Thus, our use of the terms "WFC" and "FWC" are designed to capture the direction in which the conflict is attributed. For example, if the person believes that the conflict emanates from their work role, such that it creates conflict with their family role, this would indicate WFC. It also is important to note that the relationship between conflict and work tension is a positive one, regardless of how it is attributed. Our contention is that role pressures and role salience provide insights into whether WFC or FWC is a stronger predictor of work tension, based upon the type of firm.

Additionally, it is important to note that work and family conflict is conceptualized to exist along the work and family role interface, and does not occur until one domain affects another (Edwards & Rothbard, 2000). The spillover of work (i.e., bringing work home) is not linked to the family role until it inhibits family activities (i.e., there is a negative spillover between work demands and family activities). Thus, the constructs of WFC and FWC are intended to capture an individual's perceived level of interrole conflict from each respective direction, driven to some extent by the role pressures and role salience associated with the conflict (Greenhaus & Powell, 2003). As mentioned previously, when work interferes with family, work is presumed to be the primary cause of the conflict (WFC); when family demands create constraints on the ability to meet work responsibilities, family interferes with work (FWC). Based on this implied assumption, there has been a considerable effort to examine the causes and consequences for both of these types of interrole constructs (Cinamon & Rich, 2002).

WFC, and to some extent FWC, have been empirically linked to various work-related attitudinal variables, such as work satisfaction, work distress, organizational commitment, and intentions to quit (Boyar, Carr, Mosley, & Carson, 2007; Carlson & Kacmar, 2000; Carr et al., 2008; Frone et al., 1992). In particular, work tension is often a result of interrole conflict (Werbel & Danes, 2010). Work tension has been consistently found to be negatively related to work satisfaction (Netemeyer, Johnston, & Burton, 1990), and has been shown to mediate the negative effects of work and family conflict on work satisfaction (Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999; Judge, Boudreau, & Bretz, 1994).

Past research has recently examined the different but simultaneous effects of WFC and FWC on these linkages (Greenhaus & Powell, 2003). Using a sample of students who were asked to participate in two simultaneous tasks (one related to a parent's party, the other to a team meeting), Greenhaus and Powell manipulated the role pressures that the student's received such that under one experimental condition there was higher family role pressure, and the other was higher work role pressure. Their results demonstrate that the students attributed the source of conflict to the role associated with the higher role pressure.

Both the sources of conflict, and where the conflict is attributed (either to work or family) suggests that the characteristics of the work and family environment are likely to significantly impact both WFC and FWC (Cinamon & Rich, 2002). A recent meta-analysis on WFC and subjective well-being supports this contention, and argues that future research should explore WFC and FWC simultaneously to capture potential cross-domain relationships (Ford, Heinen, & Langkamer, 2007). Additional research has examined work and family conflict relationships in family firms (Werbel & Danes, 2010) and with entrepreneurial outcomes (Parasuraman et al., 1996), but has not examined these relationships among business founders within family versus nonfamily firms. We contend that how work and family conflict is attributed as a source of work tension for founders of family firms may be different than for founders of nonfamily firms.

Family Firms, Nonfamily Firms, and Work-Family Conflict

A "family business" is generally defined as a business in which multiple family members have controlling ownership, are actively engaged in the management of the firm, and foresee a within-family succession as a possible outcome should a firm transition occur (Chua, Chrisman, & Sharma, 1999). This definition of family business emphasizes that active engagement in the management of the firm is a critical component of the family business, which would be expected for young firms. This point is important for two reasons. First, young family firms often experience conflicting resource and time challenges associated with entrepreneurial action, and do not benefit from resource slack which could offset role pressures from work and family domains. Second, active engagement suggests that these domain pressures may be magnified, and thus the presence of WFC and/or FWC are more likely to lead to work tension for the founders of such firms. Thus, our family business definition and use of a sample of young family and nonfamily firms serves as an appropriate means to examine our theoretical framework.

The presence of some level of work and/or family conflict within any firm is expected. In fact, a significant portion of the literature, as well as anecdotal evidence on family firms, has highlighted the ways in which conflict arises among family firm members (Dyer, 2006). Family business members are much more likely to experience interrole conflict, since, by definition, they occupy both family and work roles (Beehr, Drexler, & Faulkner, 1997). In their three circle model of family business, Gersick, Davis, Hampton, and Lansberg (1997) highlight the degree to which family and work role pressures can create additional stress for the family business founder. To complicate the potential for conflict further, family business members cannot simply "leave family issues at home," since their co-workers at the office are also family members after work, thus creating the opportunity for stresses related to both domains to seamlessly spill over into each other (Eddleston & Kellermanns, 2007; Kellermanns & Eddleston, 2007; Kets de Vries, 1993; Shepherd & Haynie, 2009). Role pressures related to the family's involvement in family firms are thus more likely to occur, since role expectations may be more challenging to meet in the family business context. These role pressures can include the degree to which a spouse is engaged and committed to the firm (Rothausen, 2009), or the accommodations and sacrifices family firm members must make for each other (Behson, 2002). Likewise, demands from affiliated siblings for financial support or other resources generated by the family business may also create family role pressures (Gersick et al.).

Additional possibilities for role conflict for family business founders emanate from a number of sources. For families involved in business, they are more likely to have their livelihood, including their financial well-being tied to the business (Dyer, 2003), thus making the family role particularly salient to family business founders (Carlson & Kacmar, 2000; Greenhaus & Powell, 2003). As a result, family business founders may be in a position to dictate family roles to other family business members through their ownership and management of resources present within the business, creating a situation where nonconformity to assigned roles leads to psychological or even financial sanctions against those other family members (Haynes, Walker, Rowe, & Hong, 1999). Additionally, the possibility of favored status may lead to conflicts within the family, as some family members enjoy benefits of the business that are not tied to their own merit or performance, leading to stress between those who are favored and those who are not (Kets de Vries, 1993). Finally, family harmony and workplace performance can represent a clear incongruity for some family businesses. In such circumstances, the conflicting goals of harmony and its effects on performance can lead to stress that would ordinarily be absent in a nonfamily business (Danes, 2006; Danes & Olson, 2003; Kellermanns & Eddleston, 2007).

As previously noted, many family firms are "born" as family firms (Chua et al., 2004), and, thus, family firm role pressures are likely to be exaggerated for young firms. Parasuraman and Simmers (2001) demonstrate that the implications of self-employment can dramatically increase conflict and resulting psychological strain. Using a sample of dual career earners, they provide evidence that for those couples where a spouse was self-employed, the implications for higher levels of incompatible role conflict was increased. More recently, Werbel and Danes (2010) provide compelling evidence that family role pressures are stressful for entrepreneurial firms, particularly when the spouse is committed to the firm as a stakeholder in the firm's success. Using a sample of 110 small start-up firms, their results demonstrate how cross-over effects associated with family involvement magnify the conflict and resulting strain. Thus, in such young firms, the opportunity for business founders to attribute the conflict and resulting tension to their family role is magnified. Thus, the following hypothesis is offered:

Hypothesis 1: The relationship of FWC will be more positively related to work tension for founders of family firms than for founders of nonfamily firms.

For nonfamily firms, business founders are more likely to experience work and family conflict as flowing from their work responsibilities, and thus blame their work role on the work tension they experience. In such circumstances, members of nonfamily businesses are most likely to associate their conflict with specific work challenges and responsibilities.

We do not suggest that WFC is not also present for family businesses. However, the unique family relationships and involvement present within the family firm suggests that founders of these firms may be able to cope with work role pressures and associated attributions more easily than founders of nonfamily firms. When faced with work role pressures, family firm founders are able to leverage their family's support to buffer those pressures, often in personal and work-related ways (Kwan et al., 2012). From a personal support perspective, family firm founders can more easily take advantage of emotional support from fellow family members, and with the background and understanding of the business provide higher levels of empathy regarding those work role pressures (Sirmon & Hitt, 2003). Additionally, given a shared understanding of work-family relationships, family firm members can provide instrumental support to the founder as they attempt to adopt effective coping strategies as they face entrepreneurial challenges in growing their business (Halbesleben & Wheeler, 2007).

Regarding work-related support, founders of family firms are more likely to benefit from family involvement through a shared understanding of work-related processes associated with the young firm (Steier, 2003). Likewise, the involvement of family members in the business suggests that they are more familiar with the skills required to get the work done, and are more likely to have developed additional skills that allow for those work role pressures to be informally managed between the family and work domains (Rothausen, 2009). Finally, family firm founders faced with the resource and time constraints associated with a young, growing firm can leverage more effectively the informal and temporary role accommodations available in the firm through the engagement of other family members (Behson, 2002).

Overall, the presence of these personal and work-related support activities serve as a more effective buffering mechanism for founders of family firms. Work role pressures will be less salient for family business founders when compared to nonfamily business founders, and thus the attribution of WFC to work tension is reduced, though perhaps not eliminated, for family businesses. Therefore, the following hypothesis is offered:

Hypothesis 2: The relationship of WFC will be more positively related to work tension for founders of nonfamily firms than for founders of family firms.


A total of 1,500 firms that had been established within the United States were drawn using random sampling techniques from the Dun and Bradstreet Market Identifiers Database for study in the current research. The database contains the most extensive list of young companies founded in the United States (Kalleberg, Marsden, Aldrich, & Cassell, 1990) and includes specific details such as the names and addresses of firms and their respective top management team leaders (i.e., chief executive officers). To generate data for the current research, a research packet consisting of our questionnaire, a cover letter, and business reply envelope was sent to the chief executive officer (as identified by Dun and Bradstreet) of each firm. Three mailing were sent to each firm in the sample (one primary mailing, and two follow-up mailings). Overall, 247 survey packets turned out to be nondeliverable.

We received a final count of 223 usable surveys from respondents who were classified as both a founder and the top management team leaders of their company. The resulting response rate was 17.8%. This response rate is not necessarily ideal, but is consistent with those produced by other research samples of examining the top management of relatively young firms (Hmieleski, Corbett, & Baron, 2013; Sapienza & Korsgaard, 1996). Moreover, prior research has indicated that nonresponse does not necessarily suggest the presence of sampling bias (Krosnick, 1999; Newman, 2010). Nonetheless, the potential threat of response bias was investigated through the use of t tests to compare respondents and nonrespondents in terms of several available demographic measures, such as the gender of respondents, firm age, firm revenue, number of employees, and firm growth. In each instance, the nonsignificant results were found.

The final sample included 160 male and 63 female participants, having an average age of 48 years (SD-9.65). The ethnicity of most participants was Caucasian (n = 200). The highest level of education reported by participants included doctoral (n = 10), master's (n = 38), bachelor's (n = 84), associates (n = 30) and high school (n = 61). Finally, both the location and primary industry of the sampled firms was broad (i.e., 42 states and 53 industries). Accordingly, our sample does not appear to be biased in terms of geographic location or industry. Within the study questionnaire an item was used to stratify the sample into family versus nonfamily firms. The question asked, "Is your company a family business (i.e., multiple family members have an ownership stake and are actively engaged in the management of the firm)?" Our use of this question was to ensure that our stratification of firms was consistent with our theoretical definition as outlined above (Chua et al., 1999). Specifically, we wished to ensure that the participants viewed their firm as a family (or nonfamily firm) based upon both family ownership and management characteristics. The sample consisted of responses from founders of 144 nonfamily and 79 family firms.


Unless stated otherwise, all items for the measure described below used a seven-point Likert-type scale that ranged from (1) Strongly disagree to (7) Strongly agree.

Work and Family Conflict. Five-item measures from Netemeyer, Boles, and McMurrian's (1996) were used to examine WFC and FWC. Example items include "The demands of my work interfere with my home and family life" and "The demands of my family or spouse/partner interfere with work-related activities" for WFC and FWC, respectively. Scores for each item were averaged to create overall measures of WFC and FWC. The measures produced a Cronbach's coefficient alpha of 0.89 for WFC and 0.88 for FWC.

Work Tension. This variable was measured using six items from the Work Tension Scale (House & Rizzo, 1972). Example items include "Problems associated with my job have kept me awake at night" and "If I had a different job, my health would probably improve." Item scores were averaged to form an overall score of work tension. The measure produced a Cronbach's coefficient alpha of 0.76.

Control Variables. Several industry, firm, and individual controls were used due to their potential influence on the subjective well-being of business founders (e.g., Baron, Franklin, & Hmieleski, 2013; Hmieleski & Corbett, 2008; Schjoedt, 2009). Three dummy variables were used to control for industry, the first accounted for firms in retail, wholesale, and service industries; the second accounted for manufacturing firms; and the third accounted for firms in all other industries (Chrisman, Chua, & Kellermanns, 2009). Perceived industry uncertainty ([alpha] = .70) was measured using five items adapted from Miller and Friesen (1983). Firm control variables included the age of the firms (i.e., the number of years that the firm had been in business) and the size of the firms (i.e., the standardized revenue of the firm plus the standardized number of employees). Individual controls included the entrepreneurial experience (i.e., number of previous firms that the individual had founded), industry experience (i.e., the number of years work in the current industry), educational attainment (i.e., the highest degree earned, scored as: high school = 1, associates = 2, bachelor's = 3, master's = 4, and doctoral = 5), and sex (male = 0, female = 1) (Hmieleski & Baron, 2009).

Statistical Procedures

Hierarchical moderated regression was used to examine the study hypotheses (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003). All independent variables were mean centered. The control variables were entered into Model 1, the main effects were added to form Model 2, and finally the interactions were added to generate Model 3. The significant interactions were graphed and simple slopes were tested used procedures outline by Dawson (2014).


The means, standard deviations, and bivariate correlations of the study variables are displayed in Tables 1 and 2 and are split into three groupings: the full sample, nonfamily businesses, and family businesses. The hierarchical regression results are shown in Table 3 and the significant interactions are plotted in Figures 1 and 2.

Multiple test for multicollinearity were conducted on the full model (i.e., Model 3 of Table 3). The highest VIF score was 1.94 (mean = 1.44, SD = 0.33) and the greatest condition index was 4.78 (mean = 1.98, SD = 0.97). Values for both statistics are well below the common rules of thumb of 10 and 30, respectively, for each test (Kutner, Nachtsheim, & Neter, 2004). Therefore, multicollinearity does not threaten our ability to test the study hypotheses.

Measurement Models

Before testing our hypotheses, we ran a number of confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) to investigate the distinctiveness of the focal variables examined in our model. Goodness of fit was determined using the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and the comparative fit index (CFI), and commonly used threshold values were used as indicators of poor fit (RMSEA [less than or equal to] 0.08 and CFI [greater than or equal to] 0.90). The first CFA tested was a three-factor measurement model (i.e., WFC, FWC, and work tension) in which the latent factors were allowed to freely correlate. Results indicated that the model was a good fit to the observed data ([[chi].sup.2] = 219.36, df = 101, RMSEA = .073 and its 90 percent confidence interval of .060 to .086, and CFI = ,932).The three-factor model was then compared against a series of restricted models in which the correlation of one pair of constructs was constrained to 1.0. The results of Chi-square difference tests suggested that none of the three alternative models with unity constraints were significantly better fitting model to the observed data.

Family-Work Conflict

Hypothesis 1 predicted that the relationship of FWC will be more positively related to work tension for founders of family firms than for founders of nonfamily firms. As show in Model 3 of Table 3, the relationship between FWC and work tension is significantly moderated by type of firm (nonfamily vs. family) (B = 0.33, p < 0.05). Figure 1 provides an illustration of the interaction. Examination of the simple slopes shows that the relationship of FWC with work tension is positive and significant for founders of family businesses (simple slope = 0.37, t = 3.50, p < 0.01) and nonsignificant for founders of nonfamily businesses (simple slope = 0.05, t = 0.45, p > 0.05). Therefore, results support H1.

Work-Family Conflict

Hypothesis 2 predicted that WFC will be more positively related to work tension for founders of nonfamily firms than for founders of family firms. As show in Model 3 of Table 3, the relationship between WFC and work tension is significantly moderated by type of firm (nonfamily vs. family) (B = - 0.31, p < 0.05). Figure 2 provides an illustration of the interaction. Examination of the simple slopes shows that the relationship of work-family conflict with work tension is positive and significant for founders of nonfamily businesses (simple slope = 0.45, t = 4.95, p < 0.01) and nonsignificant for founders of family businesses (simple slope = 0.16, t = 1.77, p > 0.05). Thus, results support H2.


The findings of the current research offer several contributions. The primary contribution comes from the simultaneous examination of both the FWC and WFC facing family and nonfamily business founders. This effort responds to a call from Ford et al. (2007) who have suggested that the examination of the sources of conflict is a critical need for the advancement of the study of the work-family interface. Second, the present study highlights how the advantages of family business ownership can be maximized, namely through the careful understanding of how conflict unfolds within both the business role and the family role such persons occupy. Finally, we considered how role pressures and role salience can explain the attribution of conflict to either the family or work domain in an important context (Greenhaus & Powell, 2004), namely family and nonfamily first generation businesses. The main findings of the study indicate that (1) FWC serves as a greater source of work tension for founders leading family business than for those leading nonfamily businesses, and (2) WFC serves as a greater source of work tension for founders leading nonfamily business than for those leading family businesses. We now discuss the implications of these findings.

The Differential Effects of Work and Family Conflict for Family Versus Nonfamily Businesses

Work and family are intricately linked, particularly for those individuals who seek to launch a firm. Family businesses have only recently been examined from the perspective of new venture startups (Bird & Wennberg, 2014; Chua et al. 2004; Werbel & Danes, 2010). Founders of firms are often heavily dependent on the tangible and intangible resources that their families provide. However, these resources come with some costs. Founders of family firms may believe that they can continue to provide the same level of time and energy to their family that they provided prior to their firm's launch. However, most founders are likely to struggle to some extent to incorporate both their family and work roles and responsibilities. Thus, the possibility for interrole conflict exists, whereby increased work strain can negatively affect their ability to successfully integrate their work and family demands. In some respects, this is not surprising. Launching a firm with the intention of developing it as a family firm has added personal and family challenges that may not be present for nonfamily founders.

Yet there exist many benefits from being a young firm that is launched as a family business. For example, family firm founders can benefit from their families' involvement, perhaps through a shared understanding of what the work responsibilities are, through emotional support provided by their participating and active family members, and through a potentially more seamless interplay between their work and family domains.

Regardless, the possibility for conflict exists for young firms, and when such conflict exists the potential for detrimental work tension remains. Our study examined how this conflict can be attributed to a particular domain (be it work or family), and how the family versus nonfamily business context provides insight to that attribution process. Current models of work-family conflict acknowledge that there exist two kinds of conflict (WFC and FWC), and that the way in which this conflict is attributed is an important mechanism to explaining how, and in what direction, the conflict emanates. The explanation for the attribution of conflict is theoretically argued in such models as a reflection of role pressures and the salience of roles for individuals (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Our findings represent a significant contribution regarding the attribution of conflict for family versus nonfamily firms, and point to several avenues for future research. Our results suggest that further research on how family businesses integrate their work and family roles may benefit from examining the roles of family-business identities (Shepherd & Haynie, 2009). Shepherd and Haynie theorize that the effective development of family-business identity within the family firm simultaneously addresses "who we are as a family," and "who we are as a business" (p. 1246). When founders of family firms are faced with business challenges, the presence of FWC can be a reflection of a family-business identity where identity conflict has not been successfully structured or addressed between family members within the firm. Our results serve as an important step in understanding how FWC as a result of identity conflict can lead to detrimental effects on the founders' well-being.

Future research can also further compare family business versus nonfamily business founders and their well-being through different theoretical lenses. While this study focused on a strain-based view of conflict (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985), other theories can be used to examine this phenomenon. For example, theoretical work has looked at the work-family interface as it relates to gender and associated coping strategies (Jennings & McDougald, 2007).

Likewise, research has demonstrated that family relationships can and do provide a positive impact on entrepreneurial and young firm founders (Powell & Eddleston, 2013). Recent research has examined the role of work-family enrichment as it relates to well-being (Carlson, Hunter, Ferguson, & Whitten, 2014; Carlson, Zivnuska, Kacmar, Ferguson, & Whitten, 2011). Work family enrichment may serve as one mechanism among many to explain the positive impact that family can play during the startup process. Future research which compares work-family enrichment for family business founders versus nonfamily business founders could serve as an additional theoretical perspective to assist in understanding how firm founders leverage their family relationships during the difficult and stressful situations associated with firm startup.

Finally, our results have surfaced several questions that may also warrant further research. First, we wonder whether the presence of conflict and the resulting tension might create an environment where family firm succession is jeopardized. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in some instances founders of family firms may wish to avoid passing their business on to subsequent generations, given the tensions that might exist between family and work. Future studies might benefit from examining this question, given its centrality to family business research. Second, family firm governance and professionalization could serve as additional contexts within which work and family conflict could be theoretically explored and empirically examined. Research which captures and evaluates role conflicts between family and nonfamily board members could provide additional insights regarding family and work domains, and the perceptions held by individuals in board positions. Long term, we see future research regarding conflict within the family business context to be a rich opportunity for this literature to contribute broadly to larger models of work and family conflict.

Finally, there are some limitations associated with our study that should be discussed. First, we did not simultaneously examine buffering mechanisms that may be in place for both family and nonfamily firms. For example, levels of social support, psychological support, and firm resource characteristics that would allow for founders to more adequately manage interrole conflict were not captured as part of our study. Likewise, we are limited in our ability to demonstrate causality, since our study is cross-sectional in nature. This is an important point for future research to take into account considering the reciprocal relationship between stress and strain (Odle-Dusseau et al., 2013). Other individual or organizational characteristics may influence the relationships between conflict and tension. These characteristics, which are unobserved in our current study, could include personality traits at the individual level or resources or constraints at the firm level that could possible impact our results.

Additionally, there exists a possibility that some level of self-selection bias may have influenced our results. In our study, respondents were asked, based upon our family definition, to assert whether they considered their firm a family business or not. Ideally, our survey could have included a set of questions that captured the ownership, management, and succession characteristics for each respondent's firm, similar to prior work conducted by Chua et al. (2004). A final limitation is that the focal variables (both IVs and DVs) were measured by individual respondents who completed the study questionnaire, thus increasing the potential for main effects to be inflated due to common method variance. Since such concerns do not influence the likelihood of observing significant interaction effects (Evans, 1985; Siemsen, Roth, & Oliveira, 2010), our main findings are unlikely to have been affected by this issue. Nonetheless, future research might consider using survey measures of work and family conflict along with direct physiological indicators of health (e.g., blood pressure, changes in weight, and amount of sleep).


The findings of this study provide an example of the potential for family business research to contribute theoretically to the work and family conflict literature. The detrimental effects of work and family conflict have been well established in the human resources management and organizational behavior literatures (Judge, Hies, & Scott, 2006). Within these vast literatures, however, the effects of the business context have not been well explored. As such, we suggest that future research in this area may help to generate a broader understanding of how the negative effects resulting from conflict between work and family domains may be reduced, and how the enjoyment that individuals (including business founders) are able to gain from their work may be enhanced.

DOI: 10.1111/etap.12174


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Jon C. Carr is an associate professor of management at the Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University. He received his Ph.D. in Management from Mississippi State University. His research focuses on attitudes and behaviors as they relate to entrepreneurship and family business contexts. He is currently an associate editor of Family Business Review.

Keith M. Hmieleski is the Robert and Edith Schumacher Faculty Fellow and associate professor of entrepreneurship in the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University. He received his Ph.D. in Management and M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts--Amherst. His research focuses on psychological and behavioral aspects of the new venture creation and development process.

Please send correspondence to: Jon C. Carr, tel: (817) 257-4745; e-mail:, and to Keith M. Hmieleski at

Table 1
Descriptive Statistics and Correlations for Study Variables of Full

Total Sample (N = 223)


Variable                          Mean     SD      1        2

 1. Family business ([dagger])     0.35   0.48
 2. Firm size                      0.00    1.80   -.12
 3. Firm age                       7.18    6.41   -.09    .18 **
 4. Industry dummy 1               0.53    0.50   -.02   -.11
 5. Industry dummy 2               0.18    0.39    .02   -.02
 6. Perceived industry             3.95    1.18   -.06    .07
 7. Industry experience           18.80   10.34   -.03    .21 **
 8. Ent. experience                0.92    1.23    .10   -.01
 9. Educational                    2.58    1.19    .05    .16 *
10. Individual age                48.27    9.65    .04    .16 *
11. Sex ([double dagger])          0.28    0.45    .06   -.13

12. Family-work                    2.69    1.41    .01   -.10
    conflict (FWC)
13. Work-family                    3.65    1.57    .07   -.10
    conflict (WFC)
14. Work tension                   3.80    1.31    .03   -.07


Variable                             3         4         5        6

 1. Family business ([dagger])
 2. Firm size
 3. Firm age
 4. Industry dummy 1              -.06
 5. Industry dummy 2              -.07      -.50 **
 6. Perceived industry             .01      -.04       .09
 7. Industry experience            .39 **   -.03      -.12       .11
 8. Ent. experience               -.12      -.08       .09       .14 *
 9. Educational                    .00      -.02       .19 **    .00
10. Individual age                 .26 **   -.08       .12       .03
11. Sex ([double dagger])         -.14 *    -.05                -.03
12. Family-work                   -.06      -.09       .15 *     .12
    conflict (FWC)
13. Work-family                   -.08      -.06       .10       .08
    conflict (WFC)
14. Work tension                  -.04      -.08       .07       .08


Variable                             7         8       9       10

 1. Family business ([dagger])
 2. Firm size
 3. Firm age
 4. Industry dummy 1
 5. Industry dummy 2
 6. Perceived industry
 7. Industry experience
 8. Ent. experience                .03
 9. Educational                   -.14 *     .05
10. Individual age                 .46 **    .18 **    .09
11. Sex ([double dagger])         -.21 **   -.11      -.05   -.06
12. Family-work                   -.07       .06       .05   -.18 **
    conflict (FWC)
13. Work-family                   -.05       .08       .05   -.16 *
    conflict (WFC)
14. Work tension                  -.11       .01      -.08   -.19 **


Variable                           11      12       13

 1. Family business ([dagger])
 2. Firm size
 3. Firm age
 4. Industry dummy 1
 5. Industry dummy 2
 6. Perceived industry
 7. Industry experience
 8. Ent. experience
 9. Educational
10. Individual age
11. Sex ([double dagger])
12. Family-work                    .09
    conflict (FWC)
13. Work-family                   -.02   .68 **
    conflict (WFC)
14. Work tension                   .02   .48 **   .54 **

([dagger]) Nonfamily business = 0, Family business = 1

([double dagger]) Male = 0, Female = 1; Industry dummy 1 = retail,
wholesale, and service; Industry dummy 2 = manufacturing

* p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics and
Correlations for Study Variables of Subsamples


Variable                              Mean    SD         1         2

Nonfamily business (n = 144)
 1. Firm size                          0.16    2.13
 2. Firm age                           7.59    7.05    .16
 3. Industry dummy 1                   0.53    0.50    .11      -.10
 4. Industry dummy 2                   0.17    0.38   -.01      -.01
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty     4.01    1.22    .05      -.08
 6. Industry experience               18.99    9.87    .29 **    .45 **
 7. Ent. experience                    0.83    1.17    .00      -.14
 8. Educational attainment             2.62    1.21    .20 *     .00
 9. Individual age                    47.97    9.38    .24 **    .36 **
10. Sex ([dagger])                     0.26    0.44   -.14      -.11
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)         2.68    1.42   -.14      -.06
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)         3.57    1.57   -.11      -.04
13. Work tension                       3.77    1.28   -.10      -.02

Family business (n = 79)
 1. Firm size                         -0.29    0.89
 2. Firm age                           6.43    4.99    .25 *
 3. Industry dummy 1                   0.52    0.50   -.15       .01
 4. Industry dummy 2                   0.19    0.40   -.07      -.24 *
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty     3.86    1.10    .13       .23 *
 6. Industry experience               18.46   11.20    .00       .27 *
 7. Ent. experience                    1.09    1.33   -.01      -.08
 8. Educational attainment             2.51    1.15   -.02      -.01
 9. Individual age                    48.84   10.18   -.05       .05
10. Sex ([dagger])                     0.32    0.47   -.10      -.21
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)         2.70    1.39    .04      -.05
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)         3.80    1.57   -.05      -.16
13. Work tension                       3.84    1.38    .07      -.08


Variable                                 3         4         5

Nonfamily business (n = 144)
 1. Firm size
 2. Firm age
 3. Industry dummy 1
 4. Industry dummy 2                  -.49 **
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty    -.03       .04
 6. Industry experience               -.05      -.01       .06
 7. Ent. experience                   -.03       .01       .20 *
 8. Educational attainment            -.01       .15       .04
 9. Individual age                    -.05       .14      -.02
10. Sex ([dagger])                     .02       .06      -.05
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)        -.03       .20 *     .13
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)        -.01       .16       .11
13. Work tension                       .01       .04       .06

Family business (n = 79)
 1. Firm size
 2. Firm age
 3. Industry dummy 1
 4. Industry dummy 2                  -.50
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty    -.08       .20
 6. Industry experience                .01      -.29       .20
 7. Ent. experience                   -.15       .21       .04
 8. Educational attainment            -.04       .27 *    -.08
 9. Individual age                    -.13       .09       .12
10. Sex ([dagger])                    -.16       .23 *     .01
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)        -.22       .06       .10
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)        -.16      -.01       .03
13. Work tension                      -.23       .11       .13


Variable                                 6         7         8

Nonfamily business (n = 144)
 1. Firm size
 2. Firm age
 3. Industry dummy 1
 4. Industry dummy 2
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty
 6. Industry experience
 7. Ent. experience                    .07
 8. Educational attainment            -.14      -.05
 9. Individual age                     .53 **    .06       .11
10. Sex ([dagger])                    -.18      -.07      -.02
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)        -.06       .07       .07
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)        -.04       .06       .10
13. Work tension                      -.11       .03      -.09

Family business (n = 79)
 1. Firm size
 2. Firm age
 3. Industry dummy 1
 4. Industry dummy 2
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty
 6. Industry experience
 7. Ent. experience                   -.01
 8. Educational attainment            -.14       .24 *
 9. Individual age                     .36 **    .35 **    .07
10. Sex ([dagger])                    -.26 *    -.17      -.11
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)        -.09       .04       .01
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)        -.06       .10      -.04
13. Work tension                      -.11      -.01      -.05


Variable                                9       10      11       12

Nonfamily business (n = 144)
 1. Firm size
 2. Firm age
 3. Industry dummy 1
 4. Industry dummy 2
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty
 6. Industry experience
 7. Ent. experience
 8. Educational attainment
 9. Individual age
10. Sex ([dagger])                     .02
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)        -.12      .03
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)        -.13     -.05   .68 **
13. Work tension                      -.21 *   -.03   .44 **   .59 **

Family business (n = 79)
 1. Firm size
 2. Firm age
 3. Industry dummy 1
 4. Industry dummy 2
 5. Perceived industry uncertainty
 6. Industry experience
 7. Ent. experience
 8. Educational attainment
 9. Individual age
10. Sex ([dagger])                    -.19
11. Family-work conflict (FWC)        -.28 *    .19
12. Work-family conflict (WFC)        -.22 *    .01   .67 **
13. Work tension                      -.16      .10   .55 **   .45 **

([dagger]) Male = 0, Female = 1; Industry dummy 1 = retail,
wholesale, and service; Industry dummy 2 = manufacturing

* p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01

Table 3
Hierarchical Regression Results of Work Tension

                                         Work tension

                            Model 1         Model 2         Model 3
Variable                     B (SE)         B (SE)          B (SE)

  Firm size               -.01 (.05)      .04 (.04)       .03 (.04)
  Firm age                 .01 (.02)      .01 (.01)       .01 (.01)
  Industry dummy 1        -.21 (.21)     -.15 (.18)      -.15 (.18)
    wholesale, and
  Industry dummy 2         .07 (.28)     -.15 (.24)      -.15 (.24)
  Perceived industry       .09 (.08)      .05 (.07)       .04 (.07)
  Industry experience     -.01 (.01)     -.02 (.01)      -.02 (.01)
  Entrepreneurial          .01 (.08)     -.04 (.06)      -.04 (.06)
  Educational             -.10 (.08)     -.15 * (.07)    -.16 * (.07)
  Individual age          -.03 * (.01)   -.01 (.01)      -.01 (.01)
  Sex                     -.01 (.20)     -.02 (.17)      -.05 (.17)
Main effects
  Family business (FB)                    .03 (.16)       .04 (.16)
  Family-work conflict                    .20 ** (.07)    .21 ** (.07)
  Work-family conflict                    .31 ** (.07)    .31 ** (.07)
  FWC X FB                                                .33 * (.15)
  WFC X FB                                               -.31 * (.13)
F-Ratio                   1.528          7.895 **        7.376 **
[R.sup.2]                  .067           .329            .348
Adjusted [R.sup.2]         .023           .288            .301

N = 223

* p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01
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Author:Carr, Jon C.; Hmieleski, Keith M.
Publication:Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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