Sunday, April 3, 2011

How Does Family Influence our Business Success?

“One of the very best predictors of a child's self-esteem, school success, and a rewarding life is a secure, open, and loving relationship with his or her parents (also known as attachment). A child with a secure attachment carries the feelings of being loved, respected, and guided by their parents through their entire life-span.”

In an interesting article, Pedro Carneiro, Flavio Cunha and James Heckman mention how “human capital accumulation and skill formations are dynamic processes. The skills acquired in one stage of the life cycle affect both the initial conditions and the technology of learning at the next stage. Human capital is produced over the life cycle by families, schools, and firms, although most discussions of skill formation focus on schools as the major producer of abilities and skills, despite a substantial body of evidence that families and firms are also major producers of abilities and skills; where a major determinant of successful schools is successful families.”

Yet “in an era where 49% of UK workers report that balancing work and family responsibilities is an issue of significant concern to them (JP Morgan Fleming, 2003, cited in Alexandra Beauregard), the influence of family and personal life on career decisions is receiving increasing amounts of media attention. Today’s business school graduates are looking for a work style to go with their lifestyle; claims the HR consultancy Hay Group (The Economist, 2006). Generation X and Generation Y workers, who are younger than 40, are more likely than boomers to say they put family before jobs; says an article in USA Today (Elias, 2004). Today’s younger employees are working to live rather than living to work; states a newspaper manager in the journalism newsletter Fusion (Williamson, 2006).”

It’s interesting that Jerome Kagan highlights that “of the four important influences on personality— identification, ordinal position, social class, and parental socialization—identification is the most important. By six years of age, children assume that some of the characteristics of their parents belong to them and they experience vicariously the emotion that is appropriate to the parent's experience. A six-year-old girl identified with her mother will experience pride should her mother win a prize or be praised by a friend. However, she will experience shame or anxiety if her mother is criticized or is rejected by friends. This process of identification has a great relevance to personality development. In addition, all children must learn to control two important families of emotions: anxiety, fear, and guilt, on the one hand, and on the other, anger, jealousy, and resentment.”

In fact Pedro Carneiro et al, state that “the following conclusions emerge from the recent empirical literature on child development. Cognitive ability is affected by environmental influences (including in uteri experiences) and is formed relatively early, by age 8 or so. It is hard to change IQ after this age. Non-cognitive skills (motivation, self-discipline, time preference) associated with development of the child’s prefrontal cortex can also be affected by environmental interventions. These skills are more malleable at later ages than cognitive skills. Non-cognitive skills are valued in the market place and also affect academic and social achievement.”

So the family environment has a direct impact on a child’s development, as they form their morale compass along with developing key social skills that will significantly impact their start in the business world. Of course, as much as the family impacts the child’s development, family has a significant impact on the adult’s career development and career choices as well.

For example, Alexandra Beauregard highlights how “of the five career development stages identified by Greenhaus and Callanan (1994), occupational choice is perhaps one of those most influenced by family concerns, both present and anticipated. Preparation for work involves developing an occupational self-image, wherein an individual attempts to match his or her strengths and weaknesses, values, and preferred lifestyle with the requirements and advantages of a range of different occupations.”

In fact Beauregard found that “employee concerns for balancing work and family are set to grow. Workers values and expectations regarding the combination of work and family are modelled on those exhibited by their parents (Sanders et al., 1998), and dual-earner households are on the rise in both the UK and USA (Brannen, Moss, Owen and Vale, 1997; Cornell Employment and Families Careers Institute, 1999). As more and more young people whose parents were in dual-earner partnerships enter the workforce themselves, organizations will need to find ways to allow these young workers to meet their expectations of integrating a successful career with a meaningful family life.”

So it’s interesting to note in conclusion that as Beauregard states “attitudes toward balancing a career with family commitments, as well as the actual experience of managing competing demands from work and from home, are likely to be a significant predictor of employees’ satisfaction with their career outcomes (Sanders et al., 1998) and perceptions of career success.”

Most importantly both dual and single parents must never forget the influence they have on their children’s development, both in life and business. Richard Branson gives an example of how family should be, when he mentions how “I cannot remember a moment in my life when I have not felt the love of my family. We were a family that would have killed for each other - and we still are.”

Those few parents, who abdicate their responsibilities in respect of their children’s development, not only miss out in sharing their ups and downs, but simply don’t realise what a significant negative impact this has on their lives.


Beauregard, A. (2007). Family influences on the career life cycle.

Carneiro, P., Cunha, F. and Heckman, J. (2003). Interpreting the Evidence of Family Influence on Child Development

Kagan, J. Personality Development - Influences on Personality Development.

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