Working Her Out: Mother and Daugher In-Law Relationships and the Family Farm Business

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This paper is based on a qualitative study of the relationships between mother and daughters in law who are currently living, or who have lived on family farms in South Australia and Western Australia. Methodologically the analysis is based on rich material gleaned from records of interviews, emails, letters, poetry and workshops. The participants were asked to tell their stories about their mother – daughter in law relationships and how these relationships spilled over into and influenced every day life. By focusing on these relationships the women talked about experiences that were extraordinary and exceptional for not only do they shape the individual’s perception of self, but they also they had a bearing on and influenced family dynamics and the construction of social and labour relations within the family farm system. The research demonstrated that the capacity of family members to accept newcomers, in this case the daughter in law, is stimulated through the acceptance of values and the combined respect and trust of each other’s right to express new ideas, goals and visions they have for life in general and more specifically, the family farm business.


Keywords: Relationship, Boundaries, Self-esteem, Power and Control
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Karen Cosgrove

PhD Student, Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Adelaide
-Adelaide, SA, Australia

Karen is currently enrolled in her final year as a PhD candidate at the School of Geography and Environmental Studies, Univerwsity of Adelaide, South Australia. Karen is also employed as a Principal Consultant for Rural Solutions SA. Her main areas of interest are social research, gender studies, natural resource management,civic participation, strategic planning, and social justice.

Abigail Sphehr

Project Management and Facilitation, Team of Two Consultants, Team of Two Consultants
Beachport, South Australia, Australia

Abi Spehr is partner in a fourth generation mixed grazing and cropping property on South Australia’s Limestone Coast and a successful rural project manager, facilitator and mediator.

She has held a number of positions on boards within the Limestone Coast region, including Regional Farmbis Coordinator and member of the Limestone Coast Regional Tourism Marketing Committee, Limestone Coast Youth Leadership Board and for South Australia on the Rural Financial counseling Service of South Australia.

Abi believes that sustainable and prosperous agriculture is not just dependant on economic factors but intrinsically tied to environmental and social factors. She also believes that family relationships along with succession planning are critical to the long term stability and sustainability of the family farm business.

Ref: I08P0530