Work family conflict in new business ventures: The moderating effects of spousal commitment to the new business venture

James D. Werbel, Sharon M. Danes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The creation of new business ventures (NBVs) is considered to be a central element of entrepreneurship theory and research. The processes by which individuals set intentions, gather resources, build organizations, and manage exchanges between the organization and external groups (which include family members) are important processes in the creation of NBVs. The more NBVs do these activities, the more likely they will succeed. Different research agendas have examined the factors that influence the new business venture operator's (NBVO) success in forming a NBV. One of the more recent streams of research has focused on the NBVO's human and social capital. Human capital in the form of education and experience appears to be an important asset to the NBVO. Social capital as a NBVO resource is less widely studied. Davidsson and Honig suggest that simply having a spouse is an important resource for NBVOs. Previous research suggests that spousal social support may be helpful for several reasons. First, some spouses may provide unpaid work to help the business succeed. They may provide financial resources which reduce the urgency of cash flow problems or facilitate the entrepreneur's abilities to acquire loans. Finally, they may provide emotional encouragement and support. Together, these spousal resources may help NBVOs to overcome the liabilities of newness.However, others have suggested that spouses may be a liability and that work and family conflict may become a resource constraint for married NBVOs. There is a limited but growing body of research empirically demonstrating that married NBVOs are likely to experience strain from work and family conflict (WFC). Married NBVOs may have complex family dynamics, and spouses may act in ways that create strain on the NBVO. From a social capital perspective, social capital needs to be maintained which can be a resource drain. If so, then those spousal actions are likely to draw on the NBVOs resources to manage family dynamics. This resource drain could negatively affect the success of the NBV. Based on Sustainable Family Business Theory II, this paper investigates the degree that the NBVO's spouse is a constraint on the creation of a NBV. In particular, we focus on NBVO strain as there is significant evidence that NBVOs experience more strain than individuals in other types of gainful employment. Furthermore, this strain has some debilitating effects that may threaten the viability of any business venture. This could be most critical in the start-up phase when the survival of the firm is most at risk. Using Sustainable Family Business Theory II as a foundation, we investigate the degree that WFC creates NBVO strain both directly from NBVO's perceptions of WFC and the degree that spouse may be a liability by passing spousal strain from WFC to the NBVO. Furthermore, we investigate how a spouse who is committed to the NBVO may exacerbate the liability of newness. We test these relationships on a sample of 110 new small businesses provided through two different state Small Business Development Center offices. This sample represented a diversity of industries and diversity by gender. The results suggest that when a spouse experiences WFC, a spouse is likely to be a resource constraint that creates NBVO physiological strain. Furthermore, spousal commitment to the NBV is likely to exacerbate this relationship. These results imply that, first, a spouse is not inherently a resource or a constraint in the creation of NBVs. The degree of spousal WFC is likely to expand or constrict NBVO resources to be successful. Thus, more research is needed to investigate WFC linked to NBV creation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-440
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Small Business Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010


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