The attribution of self amongst Australian family farm operators: Personal responsibility and control

Document Type

Journal Article


Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


Community Services, Education and Social Sciences




Originally published as: Halpin, D., & Guilfoyle, A. (2005). The Attribution of Self Amongst Australian Family Farm Operators: Personal Responsibility and Control. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 36(3), 475. Original article available here


Australian agriculture is dominated both numerically and in terms of production by family owned and operated farm enterprises. Many family fanners struggle to maintain farm viability amidst the ongoing commitment to a trade liberal paradigm in Australian agricultural policy. Significantly, governmental neoliberal discourses insist on Australian farmers taking personal responsibility and control for any socio-economic hardship or farm viability problems they face and down play structural explanations. In this article we argue that the intent of this discourse, if internalised by individual family farm operators, creates the potential for self-blame where fanners "fail". To investigate this argument, open-ended responses from a survey of farmers in a NSW rural local government area were examined using an extension of attribution theory from social psychology. The analysis identifies how individual family farm operators have actually engaged with these discourses and the extent to which the attributions these discourses encapsulate are replicated, transformed, or contested. Areas for future research, including impacts of attributions on family farm operators' psychological health, are discussed.

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