6224.0.55.001 - Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, Jun 2012 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/05/2013   
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Contents >> What is a Family?


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In this publication, a family is a group of two or more people that are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who usually live together in the same household. This includes all families such as newlyweds without children, same-sex partners, couples with dependants, single mothers or fathers with children, and siblings living together. At least one person in the family has to be 15 years or over. A household may contain more than one family.


There are three main types of families: couple families, one parent families, and other families.
    • Couple families are based around a couple relationship between two people who are either married or in a de facto partnership and usually resident in the same household. Couples can be same-sex or opposite-sex, and their dependants or children may also be members of the couple family if they all reside in the same household.

    • One parent families are based around a person who is not in a couple relationship with anyone usually resident in the same household, but has at least one child usually resident in the household regardless of the age of the child. These households can include other related individuals. While couple families can exist without children - that is just two people living together in a couple relationship, one parent families, on the other hand, can't exist without children.

    • Other families are based around family relationships that are neither couple relationships nor parent-child relationships, such as a brother and sister living together without any dependants.
In some cases, a household will contain more than one family. For example, a single mother with a baby living with her parents forms two families in the one household. The parents are one family and the daughter and her baby form another family.


Divorced or separated parents who live alone and have children who usually live elsewhere are classified as a lone person household and not a family in the ABS definition. Even though a parent-child relationship exists - they might even have custody each weekend - if the child usually lives elsewhere the household is not classed as a family according to ABS definitions. People who live by themselves in one house while their parents live in a different house are treated the same way. Even though they are part of a family, unless they live in the same household they don't form a family for the purpose of these statistics. This is to ensure people are only reported once. It should also reflect the usual living arrangements of the household.

People who aren't related or in a couple relationship and living in the same household, such as students sharing a flat, aren't considered to be a family unless one of the members of the household is under 15 years. In such cases, children under 15 years are considered to be dependent and so they form a child dependency relationship with the oldest member of a household (the family head), thereby forming a one parent family.


Families can be classed as having, or not having, dependants. There are two kinds of dependants: children under 15 years, and dependent students aged 15 to 24 years who are attending school or studying full-time at a tertiary education institution and living with their parents/guardians. These children are considered to be financially dependent on the parent or parents that they usually live with, which is why they are referred to as 'dependants'. However, they have to be usually living in the same household; full-time students who have left home to study and live by themselves are not considered to be part of a family, even if they are financially dependent on parents who live elsewhere.

Children aged over 15 years who are not full-time students are, for the purposes of forming a family, not considered dependent on their parents - even if they still live at home. It is also possible to have one parent families without dependants. Consider an 80 year old woman living with her 55 year old daughter, this is defined as a one parent family without dependants, even though it's not what is typically thought of when considering a single mother with a child.

It's important to consider whether children in a household are dependent on their parents when looking at these estimates, as the labour force characteristics will vary between families who have dependants and those that don't.

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