In recent years, increasing scholarly attention has been directed toward the field of family business research. Based on an exhaustive sample of 235 publications, this article provides a comprehensive review and a critical assessment of the theoretical underpinnings and corporate governance issues in family business research. Three predominant theoretical perspectives, namely principal–agent theory, stewardship theory and the resource-based view of the firm, have emerged and provide empirical evidence that family businesses significantly differ from non-family firms in important dimensions such as agency costs, competitive advantages or corporate governance structure. On their own, none of the aforementioned perspectives succeeds in addressing all complexities associated with family businesses and their corporate governance. Accordingly, joint approaches combining different theoretical frameworks can help to improve understanding of the family business. The article concludes by discussing possible directions for future research that might further contribute to building a comprehensive theory of the family business and its corporate governance.