It is difficult to fully understand family businesses, their characteristics, behaviors and performances, without embracing paradoxes. Indeed, paradoxical tensions are inherent to virtually all forms of organizing and are, perhaps not surprisingly, central to some of the most alive theoretical debates in the field, such as the seemingly contradictory theoretical positions of agency and stewardship theory. Also, competing institutional demands from the business realm and the family system are well known to create ambiguities as to the legitimacy of strategy and decision-making processes. Finally, research has started to highlight the links, tensions and inconsistencies between multiple dimensions of family firms’ socioemotional wealth that drive family firms’ strategic behavior, revealing multiple paradoxes relative to aspects such as governance, identity, social embeddedness, emotions, or intergenerational relations.
For these reasons, a deeper look at paradoxes and ambiguities in family business research holds the promise to shed new and useful insights about important outcomes on which prior research has produced mixed results, such as innovation, internationalization, succession, resilience in face of major crises, and, ultimately, performance.