Synthesizing and Extending Resource Dependence Theory: A Meta-Analysis

Journal of Management, Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2012 Last revised: 18 Feb 2013

See all articles by Johannes Drees

Johannes Drees

VU University Amsterdam

Pursey P.M.A.R. Heugens

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)

Date Written: October 17, 2012


Resource dependence theory (RDT) has long been a premier framework for understanding organization-environmental relations, but an empirical synthesis of its predictions is still lacking. Using meta-analysis, we consolidate 147 tests of RDT and corroborate its main predictions: organizations respond to resource dependencies by forming interorganizational arrangements like interlocks, alliances, joint ventures, in-sourcing arrangements, and mergers and acquisitions. In turn, these arrangements make them more autonomous and more legitimate. We also extend RDT in three ways. First, we ‘unpack’ the theory by showing that the mechanisms linking arrangement formation to organizational autonomy and legitimacy differ across arrangements. Second, we address the question whether RDT is also a theory of organizational performance. We find that whereas autonomy positively mediates the relationship between arrangement formation and performance, legitimacy does not. This suggests that RDT can also explain organizational actions which have societal acceptance rather than economic performance as an ulterior motive. Third, we assess whether competition law is a boundary condition to RDT’s prescriptions. Specifically, we show that the adoption of the horizontal merger guidelines in the U.S. has caused organizations to ‘flee’ from mergers to less regulated arrangements like alliances and joint ventures, and has hurt the profitability of the remaining mergers.

Keywords: Resource Dependence Theory, Meta-Analysis, Alliances and Joint Ventures, Mergers and Acquisitions, Organizational Autonomy, Organizational Legitimacy, Organizational Performance

JEL Classification: M00

Suggested Citation

Drees, Johannes and Heugens, Pursey P.M.A.R., Synthesizing and Extending Resource Dependence Theory: A Meta-Analysis (October 17, 2012). Journal of Management, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Johannes Drees (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081 HV
+31 20 5983757 (Phone)


Pursey P.M.A.R. Heugens

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
Room T08-21
3000 DR Rotterdam, 3000 DR
0031 10 408 2365 (Phone)
0031 10 408 9012 (Fax)

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