1286.0 - Family, Household and Income Unit Variables, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/06/2005   
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Contents >> Relationship in household >> Underlying concepts


4. The name of the variable is 'Relationship in household'.



5. The variable 'Relationship in household' is defined as:

  • the familial and other relationships between persons in a given household.

6. 'Relationship in household' is an attribute of the counting unit 'person'.


7. Operationally, 'Relationship in household' is defined as the relationship of all persons in a family to the family reference person or where a person is not part of a family that person's relationship to the household reference person, and the relationships between family reference persons and the household reference person.

8. 'Relationship in household' describes the familial and non-familial relationships of each person within each family or household. In family households, familial relationships within each family are measured with respect to a family reference person chosen for that particular family. In multi-family households, relationships are determined with respect to a household reference person, chosen from the family reference persons. In non-family households, relationships are determined with respect to a household reference person. Initially the household reference person is either the respondent or the person nominated by the respondent as Person 1 on the collection form; in many cases, not only will they be one and the same, but further processing will confirm their position as the household reference person. See Appendix A for details on identifying Family and Household Reference Persons.

9. The following points concern operationalising the definition:
  • For all households a household reference person is identified. If only one family is present in the household, the family reference person will also be the household reference person.
  • The family reference person can be described as having a 'Relationship in household' with all other members of the family; however, if it is necessary to use a term for the reference person's relationship to themself, that term is 'Self'.
  • In households where there are no families present, all relationships are identified with respect to the household reference person.
  • In family households, each family has its own family reference person. If there is more than one family in the household, the family of the household reference person is the Primary family or Family 1.
  • In households with more than one family, the family reference persons of the non-Primary families describe their 'Relationship in household' to the household reference person. The household reference person if necessary has a 'Relationship in household' of 'Self'.
  • Where the question module allows it, the identification of any closer relationship a person has to a member of the household other than person 1 allows for the correct identification of the number and composition of families and income units within a household.
  • Natural, step, adoptive and foster relationships are all treated the same.

10. A household can comprise more than one family, as defined. Family households can include unrelated individuals. Since any household where any family relations exist among its members is a family household, Lone person and Group households never include related persons.

Scope of the variable

11. 'Relationship in household' applies to all usual residents of a household. Households can be family households, group households, or lone person households.

12. Visitors are outside the scope of this classification as they are not usual residents of the selected household. However, in collections such as the Census where information is collected about visitors, they can be identified by use of a supplementary code.

Supporting variables

13. The following supporting variables are required for deriving 'Relationship in household':
  • 'Age',
  • 'Sex',
  • 'Full-time/part-time student status'.
  • Family number
14. Additionally, as members of a household must be usual residents of the dwelling in question, persons usually resident in the dwelling must be identified.

15. In collections where it is necessary to distinguish between registered and de facto marriages, 'Registered marital status' is a required supporting variable for 'Relationship in household'. However, for some collections the distinction in the classification of 'Social marital status' between 'married' and 'not married' is sufficient and therefore those surveys need not ascertain 'Registered marital status'.


16. Notions of what constitutes a family vary considerably. Some people consider their family to be the relatives with whom they live. Others extend their definition of family to include relatives who live in other dwellings. For some, the notion of family includes people who are unrelated. As ABS social surveys are based on the household, to obtain a measure of the number of families it is necessary for practical reasons to restrict the concept of family usually used in those surveys to include only those persons usually resident in the same household. A concept of family which extended beyond the household would make it impossible to identify discrete family units for the purposes of measuring the number of families and describing their characteristics. Where other concepts of the family are measured, usually in family-specific ABS surveys, the concept of family as defined in this standard and 'Family composition' is still collected as well.

17. Because the 'Relationship in household' variable serves primarily as a vehicle to enable coding and classification of families and households, rather than as a variable which is mainly intended to provide output in its own right, the technical means by which relationships are captured by the ABS vary between different surveys. Specifically, the use of a Computer Assisted Interviewing system for household surveys, compared with a paper self-completed form for the Census, have led to a wide variation in the manner in which 'Relationship in household' data are captured between the two. An effect of this variation is that 'Relationship in household' data captured for most household surveys is at a less detailed level than that for the Census and is not easily assigned to the full 'Relationship in household' classification or its standard output classification; nor are the two input classifications similar enough to be reconciled. Therefore the section of this Standard on Standard Input Categories provides two collection-method-specific input classifications, and the Standard Classification and Code Structure apply primarily to self-completed collections such as the Census.

18. The household and family structures used by the ABS to report collection results may not adequately reflect the social and family relationships relevant in the Indigenous population of Australia. However, they do provide a comparison with the 'Family composition' and 'Household composition' of the non-Indigenous population.

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