2901.0 - Census Dictionary, 2006 (Reissue)  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/11/2006  Reissue
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Contents >> Short Definitions and Classifications - 2006 >> Family Composition (FMCF) - Characteristics 2006

Family Composition

Quality Statement


For the 2006 Census, the Family Composition (FMCF) variable replaces Family Type (FMTF) which was used in previous Censuses.

Families are classified in terms of the relationships that exist between a single family reference person and each other member of that family. The Family Composition (FMCF) variable distinguishes between different types of families based on the presence or absence of couple relationships, parent-child relationships, child dependency relationships or other familial relationships, in that order of preference. More Detailed Description


Applicable to: Families in family households

1. Couple Family With No Children
2. Couple Family With Children
3. One Parent Family
9. Other Family
@@@@ Not applicable

Total number of categories:
one digit level 4
two digit level 6
three digit level 10
four digit level 17

More Detailed Description
Quality Statement - Family Composition (FMCF)

There are many aspects which can affect the quality of Census data; the following information should be considered when viewing data on Family Composition (FMCF).

In the Census, data on different types of families and households is mainly derived from the relationship questions (Questions 5 and 53 on the Census household form), which asks for each persons’s relationship to Person 1 on the form. Relationship data was captured as check box responses in 92% of cases, with the remainder coded from written responses. During data processing families are then identified and created based around a ‘family reference person’. In 95.4% of cases Person 1 is the family reference person. For the remaining 4.6% of cases, where a child or non-family member was listed as Person 1, a more appropriate person is selected.

For many households, identifying the family structure for that dwelling is quite straightforward. However, across the community, a wide variety of living arrangements exists and family structures can be complex and dynamic in nature, and so the quality of family data in the Census is partly dependent on people’s ability to describe these relationships within the constraints of the generalised questionnaire format required by a Census. Reporting relationships in respect of Person 1 only, can make it difficult to establish all the relationships which exist in a household, or to identify whether more than one family is living in the dwelling. In some cases, additional information such as name, usual residence and marital status is also be used during data processing to help determine these relationships.

In Census data, a maximum of three families are able to be identified within a single dwelling, in accordance with existing ABS standards. While this may have only a small effect on total family numbers generally, the impact may be more significant among population groups which are more likely to live in multi-generational households or with larger numbers of extended family members.

Note that family relationships are only identified for the 94.4% of persons who are in their usual residence on Census night. This means that entire families who were away from home on Census Night (on holiday, for example) will not be counted as such in the Census (however, individual family members remain in the person counts as visitors to a dwelling on Census Night). In addition, for persons imputed into dwellings for which no form was received, there is no relationship data and no families can therefore be identified.

In cases where some members of a family are away from home on Census Night, members of the family nucleus (parents or children) who were temporarily absent on Census Night (and identified as such in Question 53 on the Census Household form) are taken into account when deriving families. However, identifying families and family structures may be difficult in some of these cases (for example, where both parents were temporarily absent from the home on Census Night). It should be noted here, that the ABS has undertaken some preliminary evaluation of the quality of Census data which suggests that around 35% of family members who are temporarily absent from their usual address on Census Night are not included in the relevant section of the Census form (Q53). This is only partly explained by the reporting limitation of three persons per household.

The ABS aims to produce high quality data from the Census. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into Census form design, collection procedures, and processing procedures.

There are four principal sources of error in Census data: respondent error, processing error, partial response and undercount. Quality management of the Census program aims to reduce error as much as possible, and to provide a measure of the remaining error to data users, to allow them to use the data in an informed way.

When completing their Census form, some people do not answer all the questions which apply to them. In these instances, a 'not stated' code is allocated during processing, with the exception of non-response to age, sex, marital status and place of usual residence. These variables are needed for population estimates, so they are imputed using other information on the Census form, as well as information from the previous Census.

The processing of information from Census forms is now mostly automated, using scanning, Intelligent Character Recognition and other automatic processes. Quality assurance procedures are used during Census processing to ensure processing errors are kept at an acceptable level. Sample checking is undertaken during coding operations, and corrections are made where necessary.

The Census form may be completed by one household member on behalf of others. Incorrect answers can be introduced to the Census form if the respondent does not understand the question or does not know the correct information about other household members. Many of these errors remain in the final data.

More detailed information on data quality is available in the 2006 Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0), in the section titled Managing Census Quality.

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