Family Composition (FMCF)

This variable distinguishes between different types of families based on the presence or absence of couple relationships, parent-child relationships, child dependency relationships or other familial relationships, in that order of preference.

In the Census, data on different types of families and households is mainly derived from the relationship questions (questions 5 and 53) on the Census Household Form, which asks for each person's relationship to Person 1 on the form. During data processing, families are then identified and created based around a ‘family reference person’. In 94.2% of cases Person 1 is the family reference person. For the remaining 5.8% of cases, where a child or non-family member was listed as Person 1, a more appropriate person is selected.

For many households, identifying the family structure for that dwelling is quite straightforward. However, across the community, a wide variety of living arrangements exists and family structures can be complex and dynamic in nature, and so the quality of family data in the Census is partly dependent on people’s ability to describe these relationships within the constraints of the generalised questionnaire format required by a Census. Reporting relationships in respect of Person 1 only, can make it difficult to establish all the relationships which exist in a household, or to identify whether more than one family is living in the dwelling. In some cases, additional information such as name, usual residence and marital status is also used during data processing to help determine these relationships.

In Census data, a maximum of three families are able to be identified within a single dwelling, in accordance with existing ABS standards. While this may have only a small effect on total family numbers generally, the impact may be more significant among population groups which are more likely to live in multi-generational households or with larger numbers of extended family members.

Note that family relationships are only identified for the 95.0% of persons who are in their usual residence on Census Night. This means that entire families who were away from home on Census Night (on holiday, for example) will not be counted as such in the Census (however, individual family members remain in the person counts as visitors to a dwelling on Census Night). In addition, for persons imputed into dwellings for which no form was received, there is no relationship data therefore no families can be identified.

In cases where some members of a family are away from home on Census Night, members of the family nucleus (parents or children) who were temporarily absent on Census Night (and identified as such in question 53 on the Census Household Form) are taken into account when deriving families. However, identifying families and family structures may be difficult in some of these cases (for example, where both parents were temporarily absent from the home on Census Night). It has been shown in previous investigations on Census data, that people who are part of both family and group households can be left off the form if they are absent on Census Night. Indications are that this can be as high as 35.0% of absent family members.

For more general information on the quality of Census data on relationships, see the data quality statement for Relationship in Household (RLHP).

More information on Family Composition (FMCF) is available in the 2011 Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0).

Questions 5 and 53 as they appeared on the 2011 Census Household Form

Data for this variable is mainly derived from questions 5 and 53 on the Census Household Form.

Image of question 5 from the 2011 Census
A text only version of this question is also available

Image of question 53 from the 2011 Census
A text only version of this question is also available

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