Family members of entrepreneurial families are faced with the particular challenge of being able to move dynamically in the structurally linked family and company systems by assuming a double identity, that of family and company member. Due to the close connection between these two social systems, the actors must be able to access their two “personalities” in parallel and behave flexibly according to the different communication and interaction logics of the two systems. This ability requires special psychological skills (synchronous dissociation) and represents an ongoing life task for members of an entrepreneurial family.

What effect does this co-evolution of the two systems family and company have on the family-related and individual mental health of members of an entrepreneurial family? Can special challenges be identified that go hand in hand with the close connection and the mutual influence of these two social contexts? Which vulnerabilities become effective and are possibly reflected in psychological behavioral problems?

Differentiating from an exclusively individual-related perspective to a systemic approach, the special connection between the two social systems company and family is to be systematically researched in this project with regard to its effects on the mental health of members of an entrepreneurial family. Within the framework of a quantitative empirical study, health-related data should be recorded for the realization of different focal points. Are planned
• A survey of representative data on the mental health of this type of family, including mental abnormalities;
• the recording of general conditions of a healthy lifestyle, especially with a view to the entrepreneurial family as a family organization and a specific social network to be strengthened prosocially;
• the analysis of the special challenges and stressors in entrepreneurial families through a cross-generational assumption of responsibility for a collective entrepreneurial family fortune.

In cooperation with the Chair of Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy III at the Witten/Herdecke University, this project is transdisciplinary and combines the disciplines of clinical psychology as well as sociology and social psychology with a focus on systemic theory as well as therapy, statistics and business administration. An expansion of the research center is conceivable in the future.

This project aims to open up the field of mental health in entrepreneurial families for research. A topic that has so far been kept secret in society is thus freed from taboos and members of entrepreneurial families are finally offered a context in which an open exchange about mental stress and illnesses can be possible.


Duration: since 2022

Sponsorship: WIFU Foundation

Direction: Prof. Dr. Heiko Kleve, Prof. Dr. Tom A. Rüsen and Prof. Dr. Christina Hunger-Schoppe



Hörsting, A-K., & Rüsen, T. (2021). Psychische Störungen in Unternehmerfamilien. FuS, 5, 183-189.
Kleve, H. (2020). Die Unternehmerfamilie. Wie Wachstum, Sozialisation und Beratung gelingen. Carl-Auer Verlag.
Rüsen, T. (2021). Vom Schatten ins Licht – Tabus der Unternehmerfamilie. FuS, 4, 128-133.
Simon, F.B. (2007). Familienunternehmen als Risikofaktor. In: A. v. Schlippe, A. Nischak, M. El Hachimi (Hrsg.), Familienunternehmen verstehen…Gründer, Gesellschafter und Generationen. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Simon, F.B. (2011). Die Familie des Familienunternehmens. Ein System zwischen Gefühl und Geschäft. Carl-Auer Verlag.
Simon, F.B. (2012). Einführung in die Theorie des Familienunternehmens. Carl-Auer Verlag.


Interview with Prof. Dr. Fritz B Simon

Part 1

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Interview with Prof. Dr. Fritz B Simon

Part 2

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