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 >> Classification and coding


19. Categories for 'Relationship in household' are based on the following criteria (in order of importance):

  • Whether the person is in a Couple relationship
  • If so, whether the relationship is a registered marriage
  • Whether the person is in a Parent-child relationship
  • Whether the person is a Dependent child
  • Whether the person is in an Other family relationship
  • If so, the precise nature of that relationship
  • Sex
  • Family number

Couple relationship

20. Couple relationship denotes two people usually residing in the same household who share a social, economic and emotional bond usually associated with marriage and who consider their relationship to be a marriage or marriage-like union. This includes same-sex couples.

Parent-child relationship

21. Parent-child relationships exist between a 'parent' and that person's 'child', both of whom must be usual residents in the same dwelling. A parent must be 15 years of age or over. A child can be any age and related to the parent through birth, adoption, step family or fostering.

22. In ABS standards for household and family statistics, a child is defined as:
  • A person of any age who is a natural, adopted, step, or foster son or daughter of a couple or lone parent, usually resident in the same household. A child is also any individual less than 15 years of age, usually resident in the household, who forms a parent-child relationship with another member in the household. This includes otherwise related children and unrelated children under 15.

23. A child under 15 years of age who does not have a parent (natural, adopted, step or foster) usually resident in the same household is a 'dependent child' and is assigned to an adult in that household who is deemed to be that child's 'nominal parent'; in the process the child becomes a 'nominal child'. Full-time students aged between 15 and 24 are never allocated nominal parents. Consequently if that student is a usual resident of a dwelling where their parent is not a usual resident, the student is unable to be defined as 'dependent'. The student becomes a related (or unrelated) person in that household. Rules for allocation of a nominal parent to a nominal child are located in the 'Family composition' standard.

24. Where a person aged 15 or over is a partner in a couple relationship or has a child usually resident in the household those relationships take precedence over the person's relationship with their own parents. Such persons are not classified as children. A person whose child is not usually resident in the household does not have a 'Relationship in household' to that child, so such a person's relationships within the household apply.

Dependent child

25. There are three broad categories of child included in the 'Relationship in household' classification:
  • Child under 15
  • Dependent student
  • Non-dependent child

26. Dependency in ABS standards refers to nominally economic dependency only. Age and student status determine dependency for this purpose on the assumption that children under 15 and full time students aged 15-24 years are unlikely to be able to support themselves. Children are classified as dependent if they form a parent child relationship and:
  • they are 0-14 years of age; or
  • they are 15-24 years of age and also a full-time student (in secondary or tertiary education).
Other family relationship

27. An 'Other family relationship' is any familial or marital relationship between two people excluding couple relationships and parent-child relationships. Other family relationships include relationships between generations (e.g. Grandparents and grandchildren). Lineal relations of this kind may pass through any number of generations.

28. Other family relationships also include first cousins, i.e. persons related through one common set of grandparents, but not second cousins and beyond. A full list of the familial relationships that fall within the scope of an 'other family relationship' is given in the Coding procedures section of the 'Family composition' standard.


29. Sex is used to determine 'Husband, wife or partner' categories in the 'Relationship in household' classification. Partners in a registered marriage must be of the opposite sex. Same-sex couples are considered to be in a de facto relationship as they cannot, by Australian law, be registered as married or hold a marriage certificate with each other.


30. 'Relationship in household' is a four level hierarchical classification. The categories are as follows:

1Husband, wife or partner
11In a registered marriage
12In a de facto marriage
15Opposite-sex couple
16Same-sex couple
17Male same-sex couple
18Female same-sex couple
2Lone parent
21Lone parent
3Child under 15
31Natural or adopted child under 15
32Step child under 15
33Foster child under 15
35Otherwise related child under 15
36Unrelated child under 15
4Dependent student
41Natural or adopted dependent student
42Student step child
43Student foster child
5Non-dependent child
51Non-dependent natural or adopted child
52Non-dependent step child
53Non-dependent foster child
6Other related individual
63Non-dependent grandchild
69Other related individual not elsewhere classified
7Non-family member
71Unrelated individual living in a family household
72Group household member
73Lone person

31. Detailed categories of the classification (ie. codes 15-18) are coded using two digits rather than three or four. This is because it is rare for ABS surveys to make the distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. It is also consistent with the way de facto couples are coded in the 'Social marital status' and 'Family composition' classifications.

Residual codes

32. In the broad level 'Other related individual', category 69 is reserved as a residual category. It contains all Other related individuals not elsewhere classified. Examples of relationships in this category include Great Uncle and Second Cousin.

Supplementary codes

33. It is recommended that the special supplementary codes 9 and 99 be used to code responses of 'Visitor' in collections in which visitors to a household are considered in scope of the collection. This allows the information to be retained, while maintaining the distinction between usual residents of a household and visitors.

34. Census uses an additional supplementary code 'VV' to identify overseas visitors.


35. The 'Relationship in household' classification applies to all usual residents of a dwelling.


36. The categories of the classification can be output in their own right or cross-classified by a range of other socio-demographic variables.

37. A major purpose of this classification is as the basis for identification of income units and families, statistical units that are important for further analysis. The output of the 'Relationship in household' classification is used directly as input to the 'Income unit composition', 'Family composition' and 'Household composition' classifications.


38. Data captured on relationships are allocated to the 'Relationship in household' classification in output processing.

39. Relationships to the selected Person 1 are coded, enabling the family units existing in the household to be identified. Subsequent examination of the families thus formed shows whether Person 1 satisfies the criteria for a household reference person. Rules for forming families can be found in the 'Family composition' standard. The categories used in allocating responses are shown in the Standard Input Categories section of the Standard.

40. It is possible to distinguish between de facto and registered marriages by eliciting additional information on the 'Registered marital status' of persons in a couple relationship. For more details, see the 'Social marital status' standard. However, in most surveys the distinction between registered and de facto relationships is not required.

Step and in-law relationships

41. To be coded as a step child a person must be identified as the step son or step daughter of one or both partners in a couple family or as the step child of the lone parent in a one-parent family. In self-completed collections, this is wherever a person is identified as the child of one but not both persons in a couple relationship, or where the child is specifically identified as a stepchild of either one of the persons in a couple relationship or a lone parent. However, in standard coding in most household surveys, the step child becomes indistinguishable from any other type of child once a code is allocated.

42. Similarly in these household surveys a person who is coded as a step-parent or step-sibling becomes indistinguishable from any other type of parent or sibling once a code is allocated.

43. In self-completed collections a person who responds as a step relative or an in-law, and who does not form a couple or parent-child relationship (i.e. is not part of a separate family), will be coded to the appropriate type of relationship in the 'Other related individual' codes (60-67 and 69). Thus, if a household is composed of a reference person (husband), wife, daughter, son, and mother-in-law, the mother-in-law will be coded to 62 Father/Mother. Effectively this means that, for couple families, the relationship is expressed as the relationship to either member of a family nucleus.

The family number

44. Separate families living in the same household are treated as separate units by the 'Relationship in household' classification. The immediate implication of this is that there must be a separate numerical identifier associated with each person in the household indicating to which family that person belongs. This identifier is referred to as 'Family number'.

45. The 'Family number' identifier allows for up to nine separate families to be coded from the 'Relationship in household' data. A single digit code 0-9 is assigned to each person to indicate the family to which each person belongs. The code '0' is assigned to persons who are not members of families. The code '1' is assigned to all family members in one-family households, or to members of the first family in multi-family households. The code '2' is assigned to members of the second family in multi-family households, and so on. The total number of families which can effectively be identified in a given collection may be limited by certain operational constraints. For example, at present a limit of 7 families will be coded in ABS household surveys as a maximum of 15 usual residents can be entered into the survey instrument.

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