Specific research topics concerning the family environments of the entrepreneur include birth order, parents’ occupation(s) and social status and relationship with parents. The studies of birth order have had conflicting results since Henning and Jardim found that female executives tend to be the firstborn. Being the firstborn or an only child is postulated to result in the child receiving special attention and thereby developing more self-confidence. For example, in a national sample of 408 female entrepreneurs, Hisrich and Brush found 50 percent to be firstborn. Conversely in many studies of male and female entrepreneurs, the firstborn effect has not been present. Since the relationship to entrepreneurship has not been established, further research on the firstborn effect is still needed to determine whether it really does have an effect on an individual’s becoming an entrepreneur.
In terms of the occupation of the entrepreneurs’ parents, there is strong evidence that entrepreneur tend to have self employed or entrepreneurial parents. Having a father or mother who is self-employed provides a strong inspiration for the entrepreneur. The independent nature and flexibility of self-employment is ingrained at an early age. As one entrepreneur stated, “My father was so consumed by the venture he started and provide such a strong example, it never occurred to me to go to work for anyone else.” This feeling of independence is often further enforced by an entrepreneurial mother.
The overall parental relationship to the child, regardless of whether the parents are entrepreneurs, is perhaps the most important aspect of the childhood family environment in establishing the desirability of entrepreneurial activity in an individual. Parents of entrepreneurs need to be supportive and encourage independence, achievement and responsibility. This supportive relationship of the parents (particularly the father) appears to be the most important for female entrepreneurs. Female entrepreneurs tend to grow up in middle to upper-class environment, where families are likely to be relatively child centered, and tend to be similar to their fathers in personality.
Social changes occurred at a snail’s pace until the late 18th century. The pace quickened a bit during the 19th century, but as we look back over the 20th century, social changes reached an unprecedented quick pace. There is no evidence of a slowdown as we ready ourselves for the 21st century.
Think of the great historic eras. The Egyptian social order changed little during the 2,000 years preceding the Roman Empire. Rome revolutionized the known world with written language, transportation systems, administration processes and legal systems. It remained dominant as a military and ruling power for about 500 years. Then the Western world entered a 1,000-years lull. The medieval era, a time when hundreds of small principalities, cities-states, and feudal kingdoms slowly evolved into nations. Very few societies advanced beyond the Roman foundations that preceded them; few innovations occurred in any fashions. The renaissance was a blossoming of youth, the beginning of modern nations, architecture, mercantilism, education, arts, and the recognition of common “cultures” among peoples with similar ethnic, regional, or religious characteristics.
The industrial revolution stimulated changes in how people lived, worked, spend their money, recreated, and worshiped. Men begin working for wages rather than as farmers or in government service. Sellers became merchantman. Craftsmen moved out of their shops and into factories. Adventurers put aside swords for plows and settled new worlds. These social changes brought new demands that inspired a faster rate of change in innovation. For example, while roads had been made of sand and stone for several thousand years, “industrial city traffic” (although limited to carts, vegans, buggies) required sturdier material. Macadam (a material fashioned from coal slag and coil that we know as blacktop) was developed in Scotland.
The bicycle, also Scottish in origin, became a useful mode of transportation rather than a curiosity. “Systems” that we take entirely for granted now were major changes made to accommodate growing cities and industrial towns. Sewers, water systems, waste collection, Police services, fire brigade, and schools began to evolve during the 19th century. Nevertheless, these thousand of years of innovation are more than matched by innovations that have occurred during the past 20 years. Nearly 70% of all scientists and engineers to ever live were alive in 1980, and about 92% of all known technology was discovered or invented during the 20th century; half of that figure and a majority of the living scientists emerged after World War II.
This recent onslaught of innovation could not have happened without commensurate demand for products and services, and this demand has often resulted from social and cultural changes. The demand for timely and accurate information still outraces scientific efforts to provide telecommunications and computer applications. Mass transit systems are at best cumbersome alternatives to fender-bending traffic jams, and we have not yet devised a solution to crowded highways.
In practical terms, many entrepreneurs have found opportunities in such social changes as the increased numbers of dual-careers families and working professional women. These changes opened doors for entrepreneurs to create new fashions, to develop educational seminars for career women, and to establish counseling centers for working wives, but entrepreneurs never seem to keep pace with change. Future problems yet unknown will certainly surface to propel the challenge.