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12. The concept of the family is central to ABS Family standards. In devising its definition of the family, the ABS has recognised that notions of what constitutes a family vary considerably. Some people consider their family to be the relatives with whom they live while others extend the definition of family to include relatives who live in other dwellings. For some, the notion of family includes people who are unrelated.
16. The contextual material provided in support of this definition explains the uses of this concept in comparison with the more restricted 'household family':
17. Often the concepts of family and household refer to the same set of people when applied to a particular dwelling. This is because the family is a subset of the household by definition and, in Australian society, a household frequently comprises a single family. The family and the household are however two distinct concepts, and do not comprise identical populations. Persons who live alone, live in group households, or share a household with a family to which they are unrelated are according to the ABS' statistical definitions members of households, but not members of families. Furthermore, a household may be comprised of two (or more) families.
18. The ABS defines household as:
19. This definition is similar to the System of National Accounts (SNA) definition which is:
20. The ABS definition varies from that of the SNA only in specifically allowing lone person households, and in removing any reference to collective consumption.
21. For statistical purposes family is defined as:
22. Although the majority of households in Australia are one family households, as the basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of a couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other relationship some households will contain more than one family. This definition of family has therefore been written to encompass households which contain more than one family. For a full discussion of the way in which this definition is used to form families see the 'Relationship in household' and 'Family composition' standards.
23. This definition of family also forms the basis for defining Income units. Income units are formed either by families or by individuals not in couple or parent/dependent child relationships within a household. Income units differ from families in that related, non-dependent individuals will form separate income units rather than being attached to the family nucleus. For more information see the 'Income unit composition' standard.
24. Because ABS surveys only collect data from dwellings where at least one person aged 15 years or older can be identified, the definition of a family applies an age limit of 15 years and over to at least one member of the family. The definition also restricts the concept of a family to those usually resident in the same household because in most ABS social surveys the household is the unit of sampling. A concept of family which extended beyond the household would allow some individuals to be included in more than one family. In addition to leading to double counting of particular individuals in statistical collections, failure to apply an explicit boundary to the concept would make it difficult for the ABS to measure the number and characteristics of families consistently.
25. Although, for statistical and classificatory reasons, the definition of a family is constrained to a household, the ABS does produce statistics about wider family networks, both in the General Social Survey, and in special purpose statistical collections such as the Family Characteristics Survey. Many aspects of family life are not confined to those who live as part of one household. A major emphasis of the Family Characteristics Survey is on the ways in which members of family networks, who live in different households, give and receive support, thus making it possible to examine areas of support which are applicable to both the household family and the extended family network.
26. The household family, as described in this document and related standards, is the standard for all ABS social surveys. Thus, for the purposes of ABS statistics, a person is not considered a member of a particular family if he or she usually lives in another household, or is an unrelated individual over 15 years of age living in the same household (eg friend, boarder, housekeeper). However, unrelated individuals under 15 years of age living in the same household are treated as family members.
27. Non-family members over 15 years of age living in a family household (such as boarders) are classified as part of a family household for the purposes of 'Household composition', but are not classified as part of the family for 'Family composition' coding. For further information see the 'Household composition' standard.
28. One area which has been the subject of some discussion is whether or not a same-sex couple relationship should be regarded as the basis for the formation of a family. The ABS makes no judgements about such relationships, but aims to provide an accurate statistical picture of the structures of society to be used as the basis for informed decision making.
29. This is consistent with the recommendations, in relation to the diversity of Australian families, of the National Council for the International Year of the Family in its final report Creating the Links: Families and Social Responsibility (1994):