There still exists a strong prevalence of primogeniture in a traditional patriarchal work
environment on farms in Britain and other Western countries. This is confirmed by
discussions with insiders and documented in the literature on the subject. Other than listing
women's contributions to the family farm there is little written about how this gendered
situation is actually maintained within the family life cycle and how family members deal
with their thus allocated shares. There seems to be little conflict in Scotland, despite the fact
that there are apparent inequalities in the way the family estate is shared amongst the heirs.
The issues of gender and inheritance especially affect the daughters. The topic of this thesis
concerns their socialisation into the acceptance of their share and their potential for
Using a whole family approach the thesis examines ten families owning medium-sized
farms in the south-east of Scotland. Their education and social lives as well as their
involvement on or off the family farm are described and compared using a multiple case
study. A total of 44 semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted between July 1999
and February 2000 and analysed using Ethnograph v5 software. The purposive snowball
sampling included families in the researcher's neighbourhood and resulted in a nearly
proportionate mix of arable, mixed and stock farms with at least one child aged between 18-22 years. Half of these families had sent their children to fee paying schools.
years. Half of these families had sent their children to fee paying schools.
Bourdieu's concept of'habitus' is used to describe how class differences perpetuate
themselves within a social group, not least through the choice of state versus private
schooling, and how this affects the social lives of farmers through exposure to a wider range
of peer pressures.
A main part of the socialisation of children on the farm is the acceptance of the
changing needs of the farm. This results from 'situated learning' through 'legitimate
The attitudes to gender are reflected in expectations and job allocations which result in
a restrictive environment, making it difficult for daughters or wives to show interest or be
involved in the farm and, also for sons to turn away from agriculture. In the same vein, who
does what task usually depends on availability, expertise and personal preference and is not
generally gender-neutral. However, the research also revealed that the presence of stock on
the farm makes it more likely for female family members to be involved in farming
All agree that 'equal input' should in principle be rewarded with an equal share in the
family assets. However, the parents' judgement of what is considered 'equal input' is
influenced by traditional views of gender and and the economic realities of farm succession.
It is still mainly the eldest able and willing son(s) who takes over and only if there are no
boys interested will the girls be given a chance to take on the family farm. Agriculture
remains a physically demanding industry while equal sub-division of the family wealth
would frequently result in a non-viable outcome for the farming successor.
Ov erall the thesis suggests that gendered expectations have been present throughout
the whole process of children growing up and inheriting family farms but given the right
situation these are not necessarily insurmountable any longer.