1136.0 - Directory of Education and Training Statistics, 2007  
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Contents >> Statistical Collections >> Social >> Family Characteristics Survey

Family Characteristics Survey


Family and Community Statistics Section
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra
Telephone (02) 6252 6682


The 2003 Family Characteristics Survey (FCS) was conducted throughout Australia as a supplementary survey to the ABS Monthly Labour Force Survey in June 2003. It collected details on household and family composition including demographics, labour force status, and family type. A particular focus of the survey is families with children aged 0-17 years. The additional information collected for these families included information about family structure, the social marital status of the parents, parental income and contact arrangements for children with non-resident parents. In addition, the 2003 survey also identified whether respondents (persons aged 15 years and over) had natural children aged 0-17 years living elsewhere with the child's other natural parent.


This survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded persons living in very remote parts of Australia. The scope of the survey included all usual residents in private dwellings, except:

  • households where at least one person was a member in the Australian permanent defence forces
  • diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, and their dependants, customarily excluded from censuses and surveys
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces stationed in Australia, and their dependants.

Reference Period

June 2003

Frequency of Collection


Method of collection

For each family in a selected household, (any) one of the responsible adult (ARA) members was asked to respond on behalf of all the family members. Where possible, interviews were arranged with ARAs who were either the parents or the partner of a parent with children in the household. Interviews were conducted over a two-week period during June 2003. About 80% of the interviews were conducted by telephone with the remainder being face-to-face interviews.

The survey collected detailed information for up to three children aged 0-17 years in a family. In families with four or more children aged 0-17 years, only limited information (age, sex, and relationship to parents) was collected about the fourth and subsequent children, up to a maximum of nine children. The remaining details for these children were imputed from information already collected for the first three children. Information collected in the survey has been used to estimate the number of parent-child relationships beyond the home (usual residence of child) from the child's perspective.


Release schedule

Results from the 2003 Family Characteristics Survey were available in September 2004.


Family Characteristics, Australia, June 2003 (ABS cat. no. 4442.0)
Family Characteristics Survey, Australia, Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File: Technical Paper, 2003 (ABS cat.no. 4442.0.55.002)


Data are available for Australia, state and territory, and capital city/balance of state (excluding territories).

Data Service

Customised tables are available on request, as a charged service. State and territory tables are also available.

Family Characteristics Survey, Australia, Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File, 2003 (ABS cat. no. 4442.0.55.001)


Data items are available at both person and family level, with some data items available at the household level. Variables include standard labour force items, basic demographics and socio-economic characteristics. Data items about families cover: family structure and life cycle stage, number of dependent children by age group, children with a natural parent living elsewhere, age and marital status of parents/partners


Year of arrival
Relationship in household

Whether full-time student
Whether attending school
Level of highest educational attainment
Main field of highest educational attainment

Historical Data

The 2003 FCS is the fourth survey on the topic of family composition. Family Surveys were conducted by the ABS in 1982 and 1992, and a previous Family Characteristics Survey (FCS) was conducted in 1997. The Family Surveys, and to a lesser extent the 1997 FCS, differed from the 2003 FCS in some areas. Nevertheless, these differences do not preclude useful comparisons between them for certain data items.

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