2900.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia , 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/05/2018  First Issue
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Grandparent Families

In the Census, families are identified and classified in terms of the relationship that exists between a single family reference person and each other member of the family. Grandparent families are recognised where there is a grandparent-grandchild relationship in a family and no parent-child relationship.

There is great demand for information on grandparent families; however there are limitations on what can be provided from the Census. Prior to 2011, this information is available by customised request only. For the 2016 Census, the Grandparent Families (FMGF) variable is available as a standard output data item in Census TableBuilder Pro, as is Child Type (including grandchildren) (CTGP) and Relationship in Household (including grandchildren) (RLGP). These are all variants of the basic family and relationship variables.

Standard variablesGrandparent variables
RLHP (Relationship in Household)RLGP (Relationship in Household, including grandchildren)
FMCF (Family Composition)FMGF (Grandparent Families)
CTPP (Child Type)CTGP (Child Type, including grandchildren)

Relationship in Household (RLHP) and Relationship in Household, including grandchildren (RLGP)

Both variables describe the relationship of each person 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. RLGP classifies grandchildren, including those aged 15 years and over, as a 'child', whereas RLHP classifies persons aged 15 and over as an 'other relative'.

There are three categories in the Relationship in Household (including grandchildren) (RLGP) classification that can denote grandchild relationships which is used for the Grandparent specific variables:

34Grandchild under 15
44Dependent student grandchild
54Non-dependent grandchild

When considering grandchildren in the standard family variables (RLHP Relationship in Household and FMCF Family Composition), the following facts should be kept in mind. The most important is that RLHP contains only two grandchild variables, unlike RLGP - Grandchild under 15 and Dependent student grandchild.

RLHP is used in the standard family composition coding. How this impacts on the grandchildren variables can be seen in the diagrams below.

Image: To be categorised as a grandchild under 15, the child must be aged less than 15 and the relationship to the 'parents' in the family is as a grandchild.

To be categorised as a grandchild under 15 the child must be aged less than 15 and the relationship to the ‘parents’ in the family is as a grandchild.

Image: To be categorised as a non-dependant grandchild, the child must be aged 15 or more. They may or may not be a studentImage: in an 'other family' the other related individual may be a grandmother, and the other related individual may be a non dependent grandchild

To be categorised as a non-dependant grandchild, the child must be aged 15 or more. They may or may not be a student. Note that a parent-child relationship is only established where there is a grandchild under 15. It is not established when a child is over 15. Hence in the first diagram a lone parent family is established whereas an other family is established in the second diagram in the absence of a child under 15.

Family Composition (FMCF) and Grandparent Families (FMGF)

The FMCF and FMGF variables both classify families into different family types, depending on the composition of the family. When classifying families into different types, information about temporarily absent family members is used. The focus of the FMGF classification is on grandparent families only.

Child Type (CTPP) and Child Type including grandchildren (CTGP)

The CTPP and CTGP variables both identify parent-child relationships within families. CTGP recognises grandparent-grandchild relationships as parent-child relationships, regardless of the age of the grandchild.

When using standard variables, a person who is aged 15 years or more and has the relationship of ‘grandchild’ is treated as an ‘other relative’. That is, if there is a sole grandparent in the family, the family is coded as an ‘other family’. A grandparent couple would be coded as a ‘couple family with no children and with relatives’.

When using grandparent variables, this person is treated as a type of ‘child’. A sole grandparent is classified as a ‘lone parent’ and a family with a grandparent couple is classified as a ‘couple family with children’. The grandchild would have a relationship of 'dependent student' or 'non-dependent child', rather than ‘other relative’.

Due to these differences in definitions, it is very important that the ‘grandparent’ variables are not mixed with the standard variables, as this could result in incorrect data.

Standard variables
Grandparent variables
A grandparent coupleFamily is classified as 'couple family with no children and with relatives'.Family is classified as 'couple family with children'.
A sole grandparent in the familyFamily is classified as 'other family'.Family is classified as 'lone parent'.
Person aged 15 years or more and has relationship of grandchildPerson is classified as 'other relative'.Person is classified as a 'type of child' with a relationship of 'dependent student' or 'non-dependent child'.

Issues to Consider

Caring responsibilities

It is very important that users do not make assumptions about grandparent families, especially in relation to care, as this information is not necessarily indicative of care. Family Composition is indicative of family structure only. It is not indicative of family relationships and care. A 20 year old grandchild who lives with their grandmother may be a full-time student who is dependent on their grandmother for care. However it may equally be the case that they moved in with their grandmother to take care of her.

Absent adults

A temporarily absent adult may have an effect on how the family is coded. In the diagram below, three generations usually live together, however the ‘middle’ generation is away on Census night. This means that instead of the family being coded as a lone parent family, with the child under 15 coded as a ‘natural or adopted child under 15’ and the grandmother coded as an ‘Other related individual (mother)’, the grandmother is coded as a lone parent with one grandchild under 15 and one non-dependent temporarily absent child. For more information see the page on Temporarily Absent People.

Image: showing the child of the grandmother and mother of the child is temporarily absent

Other adults in the household

The way in which other adults in the household have been listed on the form in relation to Person One may also affect the ability to accurately identify ‘grandparent families’.