From stress to distress: Conceptualizing the British family farming patriarchal way of life

Linda Price, Nick Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


‘Rural stress’ and ‘farming stress’ are terms that have become commonly appropriated by British health-based academic disciplines, the medical profession and social support networks, especially since the agricultural ‘crises’ of B.S.E. and Foot and Mouth Disease. Looking beyond the media headlines, it is apparent that the terms in fact are colloquial catch-alls for visible psychological and physiological outcomes shown by individuals. Seldom have the underlying causes and origins of presentable medical outcomes been probed, particularly within the context of the patriarchal and traditionally patrilineal way of life which family forms of farming business activity in Britain encapsulate. Thus, this paper argues that insufficient attention has been paid to the conceptualization of the terms. They have become both over-used and ill-defined in their application to British family farm individuals and their life situations. A conceptual framework is outlined that attempts to shift the stress research agenda into the unilluminated spaces of the family farming ‘way of life’ and focus instead on ‘distress’. Drawing upon theorization from agricultural and feminist geography together with cultural approaches from rural geography, four distinct clusters of distress originate from the thoughts of individuals and the social practices now required to enact patriarchal family farming gender identities. These are explored using case study evidence from ethnographic repeated life history interviews with members of seven farming families in Powys, Mid Wales, an area dominated by family forms of farming business. Future research agendas need to be based firmly on the distressing reality of patriarchal family farming and also be inclusive of those who, having rejected the associated way of life, now lie beyond the farm gate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • Rural/farming stress; Distress; Family farming; Way of life; Patriarchy.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Development
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'From stress to distress: Conceptualizing the British family farming patriarchal way of life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this