2901.0 - Census Dictionary, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/04/2001   
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Contents >> Definitions >> Family - Glossary


A family is defined by the ABS as two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same household.

The basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of either a couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other blood relationship. Some households, therefore, contain more than one family.

Non-related persons living in the same household are not counted as family members (unless under 15 years of age).

Other related individuals (brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles) may be present in the household. If more than one family is present these people can only be associated with the primary family.

Visiting families are not included as part of the household, and the relationships of other visitors are not coded. A household containing only a visiting family (e.g. a family at a holiday home) is coded to a household type of visitors only.

Where all persons present are aged under 15 years, or where information for each person has been imputed, the household is deemed not classifiable to a family. Of people listed as temporarily absent, only spouse(s) and family children are used in coding family type.

Family reference person: One person in each family is designated as the family reference person. A family reference person must be present in the household on Census Night (i.e. listed in the main body of the census form, not in the part for temporary absentees), and over the age of 15 years. There is a reference person for each family in a multiple family household. The reference person for the primary family is usually defined as the household reference person.

Once a suitable family reference person is established for a family, all people identified within the family unit are allocated family relationship codes, and family type determined.

Family Relationships: Family relationships are derived from two questions on the Household Form (see Appendix A). Question 5 asked each person his/her relationship to Person 1/Person 2. Question 44 asked for usual household members who were temporarily absent on Census Night, and their relationship to Person 1/Person 2. Coding of family structure is based on these answers. If Person 1 is not the most appropriate family reference person, coders assign the reference person based on age, marital status and relationship considerations.

If the only person present in the household on Census Night is the reference person, it is still possible to form a family unit where a spouse and/or dependent family children are listed as temporarily absent.

An important note here is that people listed as temporarily absent are considered in the family and household coding only. Characteristics of these people are not available at the household of usual residence. Such people may have been enumerated elsewhere in Australia, however there is no method of linking their census information back to their usual residence.

If relationships are not adequately stated by respondents, the family structure is derived where possible during processing from other responses such as name, usual residence and marital status.

Relationships between multiple families: Up to three families can be coded in one household: the primary family (usually the first listed on the census form, or the one with dependent children), and up to two others. These groups are referred to collectively as secondary families, and individually as second and third families.

The relationship between the families is coded by the variable Relationship Between Families (FRLF). If there are more than three families in a household, three of the families are classified separately. Any others are classified as either related family members or non-family members as appropriate.

It can be useful to look at data for primary families only, or look at relationships between families. Family Number (FNOF) indicates whether the family is a primary or other family, while FRLF details the relationship between the primary family and the second or third families.

Family variables: The basic family classification is Family Type (FMTF). When classifying families, information about temporarily absent family members is used. Other family variables available are:

  • Count of Children Under 15 Temporarily Absent (CDCAF);
  • Count of Dependent Students (15–24) Temporarily Absent (CDSAF);
  • Count of Non-Dependent Children Temporarily Absent (CNDAF); and
  • Location of Spouse (SPLF).

See also Child, Family/Household Reference Person Indicator (RPIP), Family Type (FMTF), Indigenous Family.

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