New Entrepreneurship Research Explores Mental Health Disorders in Family Businesses

Mental health problems can not only impact individuals and families, but family businesses as well. New entrepreneurship research explores the unique opportunities and challenges of family businesses dealing with mental disorders in the family and paves the way for future research on the subject.

“As much as 25 percent of the world’s population and one third of the U.S. population faces some mental health problem, and chronic diagnoses such as A.D.H.D. and autism spectrum disorder are on the rise globally,” Johan Wiklund, the Al Berg Chair and professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. “Many, if not most, families are affected, including those operating businesses.”

Wiklund recently partnered with Wei Yu, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore and a graduate of the Whitman School’s Ph.D. program, and Danny Miller, director of the Center for Research on Organization, Strategy and Governance at the University of Alberta, to conduct this new entrepreneurship research, which built on the socioemotional wealth perspective of family business, the ABCX model of family coping and work-family interface literature.

According to Yu, through examining these components and anecdotal evidence, researchers were able to develop a conceptual model of “how the negative and positive priorities of socioemotional wealth preservation in family firms influence the nature of the challenges faced by family firms coping with mental disorders, and the resources available for coping with those challenges.”

Some of the coping resources researchers identified for family businesses where mental health problems are present included the family business investmenting in training and providing more social support for the individual, as well as designing work to exploit unique talents of their employee, encouraging understanding of mental disorders by teams and creating deep connections across the organization.

While the model is conceptual, Wiklund believes their work helps to bring awareness to the subject of mental health problems in family businesses and may inspire researchers to explore the topic more by providing a baseline and model to work with. Wiklund and fellow researchers also put forth a research agenda for this subject.

“We bring much-needed specificity to models of family business sustainability in terms of both the types of unique resources and challenges and the outcomes,” explained Wiklund.

Arielle Spears