6224.0.55.001 - Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, Jun 2011 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/09/2011   
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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 newlyweds without children, gay partners, couples with dependants, single mums or dads with children, siblings living together, and many other variations. At least one person in the family has to be over 15.


There are three main types of families: couple families, lone 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. Couples can be gay or straight, and their dependants or children may also be members of the couple family if they all reside in the same household.

    • Lone parent families are based on a person who is not in a couple relationship, but forms a parent-child relationship with at least one other person in the household. Couple families can exist without children - that is just two people living together in a couple relationship. Lone parent families, on the other hand, can't exist without children - there must be at least two people to form a family.

    • 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 mum with a baby, living with her parents forms two families. The parents and their daughter are one family. The daughter and her baby form another family. We separate such cases into two family units.


Divorced or separated parents who live alone, but have children who usually live elsewhere, are not considered to be in a family. Even though a parent-child relationship exists - they might even have custody each weekend say - if they usually live in a household by themselves they aren't classed as living in 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.

People who aren't related 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. In such cases, children under 15 are considered to be financially dependent, and so, if they aren't living with their parent or guardian, they form a child dependency relationship with the oldest member of a household (the family head), thereby forming a lone parent family. Furthermore, if a child under the age of 15 has a child or a partner/spouse of their own, then that relationship is not recorded. These situations are not encountered in the survey very often and have little impact on the estimates.


Families can be classed as having - or not having - dependants. There are two kinds of dependants: children under 15, and dependent students aged 15 to 24 who are studying full-time and living with their parents. These children are financially dependent on the parent or parents that they live with, which is why they are called 'dependants'. They have to be living in the same household though; full-time students who have left home to study and live by themselves are not part of a family, even if they are financially dependent on parents who live elsewhere.

Children aged over 15 who are not full-time students are considered to be eligible to join the labour force and so are no longer dependent on their parents - even if they still live at home. It is also possible to have lone parent families without dependants. Consider an 80 year old woman living with her 55 year old daughter - this is defined as a lone parent family without dependants, even though it's not what we typically think of when we think of a single mum with 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 significantly between families who have dependants and those that don't.

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