Latest release

Family characteristics and transitions methodology

Reference period
2012-13
Released
26/02/2015
Next release Unknown
First release

Explanatory notes

Introduction

1 The statistics in this publication were compiled from data collected in the Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS), which was conducted throughout Australia in the 2012-13 financial year as a supplement to the Monthly Population Survey (MPS). The MPHS is designed to provide statistics annually for labour, social and economic topics.

2 The topics collected in the 2012-13 MPHS, in addition to household and person socio-demographic characteristics, were:

• Family Characteristics
• Family Transitions and History
• Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation
• Retirement and Retirement Intentions (including Method of Meeting Current Living Costs)
• Household Use of Information Technology
• Patient Experience
• Crime Victimisation
• Income (Personal, Partner's, Household).

3 For all topics, information on labour force characteristics, education, income and other demographics are also available.

4 Data from both Family topics are presented in this publication. Data for other MPHS topics collected in 2012-13 have been released in separate publications.

5 The Family Characteristics topic has been collected before, in 1982, 1992, 1997, 2003, 2006-07 and 2009-10. The Family Transitions topic was collected in 2006-07.

6 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about survey and sample design, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the MPS, and consequently the MPHS. This publication contains definitions of demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about telephone interviewing.

Scope

7 The scope of the 2012-13 Family Characteristics and Transitions Survey (FCTS) included all usual residents in private dwellings, except:

• diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, and their dependants, excluded from censuses and surveys of Australian residents
• members of non-Australian defence forces stationed in Australia, and their dependants
• persons living in non-private dwellings such as hotels, university residences, students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, residents of homes (e.g. retirement homes, homes for persons with disabilities, women's shelters), and inmates of prisons.

8 The survey was conducted in urban, rural, remote and very remote areas in all states and territories. People living in Indigenous Community Frame (ICF) Collection Districts (CDs) were excluded.

Coverage

9 Coverage rules are applied to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. For example, a child with a natural parent living elsewhere is associated with the dwelling in which they usually reside. See Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for more details.

Data collection

10 ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews by either telephone or at selected dwellings, from July 2012 to June 2013. Each month a sample of dwellings were selected for the MPHS from the responding households in the last rotation group for the MPS. In these dwellings, after the MPS had been fully completed for each person, a usual resident aged 15 years and over was selected at random and asked the additional MPHS questions in a personal interview. Information was collected using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI), whereby responses are recorded directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a notebook computer.

11 The Family Characteristics topic collected information from the randomly selected person about the household and about every person in the household, including all children in the household. The Family Transitions and History topic questions were only asked about the randomly selected persons aged 18 years and over, with some sub-topics having additional age restrictions. Therefore, the sample for Family Characteristics is much larger than for Family Transitions and History. There were 36,700 person records for the Family Characteristics topic, and 14,600 person records for the Family Transitions and History topic.

12 Where the randomly selected respondent was aged 15-17 years, and a parent/guardian or other responsible adult aged 18 years and over was resident in the household, permission was sought from the parent or other adult to interview the young person. Regardless of whether permission was granted, details for Family Characteristics and household income (excluding the income of the selected person) were collected from the parent or other adult.

13 The survey collected information about parent-child relationships beyond the usual residence of the child. The survey collected information about resident children aged 0-17 years in the household who had a natural parent living in another household. In addition, the survey identified whether respondents were parents who had natural children aged 0-17 years living elsewhere with the child's other natural parent.

Sample size

14 After taking into account sample loss, the response rate for the Family Characteristics and Transitions survey was 77%. In total, information was collected from 15,104 fully responding households.

Weighting

15 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in-scope population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each covered sample unit (i.e. a person, a family or a household). The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit.

16 The first step in calculating weights for each unit is to assign an initial weight, which is the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 people).

Benchmarking

17 The initial weights were calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks' in designated categories of sex by age by state or territory and part of state or territory. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over or under-enumeration of particular groups of persons which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response.

18 The 2012-13 Family Characteristics and Transitions data were benchmarked to the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) in each state and territory, excluding ICF CDs, at 31st March 2013. The ERP estimates were based on results from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. Therefore the estimates from this survey do not (and are not intended to) match estimates for the total Australian resident population (which include persons and households living in non-private dwellings, such as hotels and boarding houses) from other ABS sources.

19 The survey estimates conform to person benchmarks by State, part-of-State, age and sex, and to household benchmarks by State, part-of-State and household composition (number of adults and children usually resident in the household). These benchmark variables are the same as those used in the 1997, 2003, 2006-07 and 2009-10 Family Characteristics surveys. The only change has been in relation to age groups for which some collapsing was required for each collection. The impact of this change on estimates not involving age is minimal.

Estimation

20 Survey estimates (e.g. counts of persons, families or households) are obtained by summing the relevant weight (for persons, families or households) with the characteristic of interest.

Confidentiality

21 To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique is used to randomly adjust cell values. This technique is called perturbation. Perturbation involves small random adjustment of the statistics and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics. After perturbation, a given published cell value will be consistent across all tables. However, adding up cell values to derive a total will not necessarily give the same result as published totals. The introduction of perturbation in publications ensures that these statistics are consistent with statistics released via services such as TableBuilder.

22 Perturbation has only been applied to 2012–13 data. Data from previous cycles (2006-07 and 2009–10) have not been perturbed.

Reliability of estimates

23 All sample surveys are subject to error which can be broadly categorised as either:

• sampling error
• non-sampling error.

24 Inaccuracies that arise from selecting a sample rather than conducting a population census are known as sampling errors. Non-sampling error may occur in any collection and include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers and errors in coding and processing the data. Every effort is made to reduce the non–sampling error by careful design and testing of the questions, training of interviewers, follow-up of respondents and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.

25 Sampling and non-sampling error can impact on the reliability of the estimates and are explained further in the Technical Note.

Data comparability with other ABS sources

26 There are reasons why results from the FCTS survey differ from other ABS surveys and Census data. The FCTS is a sample survey and its results are subject to sampling error. Users should take account of the relative standard errors (RSEs) on FCTS estimates and those on other survey estimates where comparisons are made.

27 Differences in FCTS estimates, when compared with the estimates of other surveys, may also result from:

28 Differences in FCTS estimates, when compared with Census data, may also result from:

• differences in the benchmark base - the FCTS data were benchmarked to the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) as at March 2013, based on results from the 2006 Census. The ABS introduced new methodology after the 2011 Census which enabled a more accurate measure of net undercount, which contributed towards a considerably larger intercensal error for the rebased ERP. See Feature Article 4: Advice on the use of 2011 Preliminary Rebased ERP in Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2012 (cat. no. 3101.0) for more details.
• differences in scope and/or coverage
• different reference periods.

Family Characteristics and Transitions. Australia, 2012-13 ('000)2011 Census ('000)
All Persons22,81921,508
Children 0-17 years5,1834,990
All Families6,7055,684
Couple families5,6914,685
One parent families909902

Family Characteristics and Transitions. Australia, 2012-13 ('000)Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, June 2012 ('000)
Children 0-14 years in families where no-one is employed473528.9
Dependent student aged 15-24 years in families where no-one is employed90109.5

Historical comparisons

29 Family Surveys were conducted by the ABS in 1982 and 1992, and the Family Characteristics Survey (FCS) was previously conducted in 1997, 2003, 2006-07 and 2009-10. The Family Surveys, and to a lesser extent the 1997 FCS, differed from the 2003, 2006-07 and 2009-10 FCS in some areas. Nevertheless, these differences do not preclude useful comparisons between them for certain data items. Some data from the 2006-07 and 2009-10 surveys have been included in this publication to show changes over time.

30 Changes listed below were made to the content of the FCS between 2006-07, 2009-10 and 2012-13. These changes should be noted when making comparisons over time.

• Child Support information was collected in 2009-10, but not in 2006-07 or 2012-13.
• Family Transitions information was collected in 2006-07 and 2012-13, but not in 2009-10.
• Data on indirect contact (via telephone, letters or email) between children and parents living elsewhere was collected in 2009-10, but not in 2006-07 or 2012-13.
• Data on direct and indirect contact between children and grandparents was collected in 2009-10, but not in 2006-07 or 2012-13.
• In 2006-07, 2009-10 and 2012-13 data was collected about whether persons had natural children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere with the other natural parent. However, in 2009-10 further information was collected about these children, including the number of children, frequency of visitation, indirect contact (via telephone, letters or email), and direct and indirect contact with grandparents.
• The ABS recommends that due to changes in the data processing methodology, the following data items are not comparable with equivalent items in the 2006-07 cycle:
• number of natural children ever born
• number of male children ever born
• number of female children ever born
• age of parent when first natural child born.

Family coding practices

31 Data items such as 'family composition' in household surveys are based on initial information gathered about the members of the household and their relationships to each other. Family coding is the process of allocating household members to families, where appropriate, based on their spousal, parent-child, and other familial relationships to other members of the household. All children aged 0-14 years are assigned a parent or nominal parent, for example, a grandchild living with only his/her grandparents will have the grandparents allocated as nominal parents.

32 The family topics in the 2012-13 FCTS and 2009-10 FCS are designed to capture more accurate information about the composition of families than that collected in other ABS surveys. In 2006-07 and 2009-10, as was the case in 2003, a number of populations and data items have been modified to more accurately classify persons and families where there was a parent/guardian and child/ward relationship. Prior to the 2003 FCS, children aged 15-17 years whose relationship fell outside the standard parent-child classifications (e.g. grandchildren living with grandparents, children living with other related or unrelated adults in a guardian-ward relationship) were classified as 'other related individuals' or 'unrelated individuals'.

33 For example, in the 1997 FCS, a 15-17 year old child living with his or her grandparents would have resulted in the grandparents being coded to 'couple family without children' and the child would be an 'other related individual'. For the 2003, 2006-07, 2009-10 and 2012-13 surveys, the family classification allows for inclusion of people with this relationship in the same family. For the example outlined above, the family would be classified as a 'couple family with children'. See Family, Household and Income Unit Variables (cat. no. 1286.0) for further information on family classifications.

Acknowledgement

34 ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated. Without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

Publication data cubes

35 Data cubes of all tables related to this publication in Excel spreadsheet format can be found on the ABS website (from the Data downloads section of this publication). The spreadsheets present tables of estimates, proportions and the corresponding relative standard errors (RSEs).

Microdata record file

36 In addition to the data available in the Excel spreadsheets, other tables will be able to be produced using TableBuilder. TableBuilder is an online tool for creating tables and graphs from survey data. TableBuilder for the 2012–13 Family Characteristics topic is expected to be available in the first half of 2015. General information about this product, including cost, can be found on the About TableBuilder page.

37 A Confidentialised Unit Record File for the 2012–13 Family Characteristics and Transitions Survey will not be available.

Data available on request

38 A range of additional data not provided in the standard spreadsheets may be able to be provided on a fee-for-service basis. For further information, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070, or email client.services@abs.gov.au. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Data item list

39 A full list of the data items available from the Family Characteristics and Transitions Survey is also available from the ABS website (see the Data downloads section for cat. no. 4442.0).

Technical note - data quality

Reliability of the estimates

1 The estimates in this publication are based on information obtained from a sample survey. Any data collection may encounter factors, known as non-sampling error, which can impact on the reliability of the resulting statistics. In addition, the reliability of estimates based on sample surveys are also subject to sampling variability. That is, the estimates may differ from those that would have been produced had all persons in the population been included in the survey.

Non-sampling error

2 Non-sampling error may occur in any collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers and errors in coding and processing data. Every effort is made to reduce non-sampling error by careful design and testing of questionnaires, training and supervision of interviewers, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.

Sampling error

3 Differences that arise from selecting a sample rather than conducting a population census are known as sampling errors. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied by chance because only a sample of persons was included. There are about two chances in three (67%) that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the number that would have been obtained if all persons had been surveyed, and about 19 chances in 20 (95%) that the difference will be less than two SEs.

4 Another measure of the likely difference is the relative standard error (RSE), which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate.

$$R S E \%=\left(\frac{S E}{estimate}\right) \times 100$$

5 RSEs for count estimates have been calculated using the Jackknife method of variance estimation. This involves the calculation of 30 'replicate' estimates based on 30 different subsamples of the obtained sample. The variability of estimates obtained from these subsamples is used to estimate the sample variability surrounding the count estimate.

6 The Excel spreadsheets in the Data downloads section contain all the tables produced for this release and the calculated RSEs for each of the estimates.

7 Only estimates (numbers or percentages) with RSEs less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most analytical purposes. However, estimates with larger RSEs have been included. Estimates with an RSE in the range 25% to 50% should be used with caution while estimates with RSEs greater than 50% are considered too unreliable for general use. All cells in the Excel spreadsheets with RSEs greater than 25% contain a comment indicating the size of the RSE. These cells can be identified by a red indicator in the corner of the cell. The comment appears when the mouse pointer hovers over the cell.

Calculation of standard error

8 Standard errors can be calculated using the estimates (counts or percentages) and the corresponding RSEs. See What is a Standard Error and Relative Standard Error, Reliability of estimates for Labour Force data for more details.

Proportions and percentages

9 Proportions and percentages formed from the ratio of two estimates are also subject to sampling errors. The size of the error depends on the accuracy of both the numerator and the denominator. A formula to approximate the RSE of a proportion is given below. This formula is only valid when x is a subset of y:

$$R S E\left(\frac{x}{y}\right) \approx \sqrt{[R S E(x)]^{2}-[R S E(y)]^{2}}$$

Differences

10 The difference between two survey estimates (counts or percentages) can also be calculated from published estimates. Such an estimate is also subject to sampling error. The sampling error of the difference between two estimates depends on their SEs and the relationship (correlation) between them. An approximate SE of the difference between two estimates (x-y) may be calculated by the following formula:

$$S E(x-y) \approx \sqrt{[S E(x)]^{2}+[S E(y)]^{2}}$$

11 While this formula will only be exact for differences between separate and uncorrelated characteristics or sub populations, it provides a good approximation for the differences likely to be of interest in this publication.

Significance testing

12 A statistical significance test for a comparison between estimates can be performed to determine whether it is likely that there is a difference between the corresponding population characteristics. The standard error of the difference between two corresponding estimates (x and y) can be calculated using the formula shown above in the Differences section. This standard error is then used to calculate the following test statistic:

$$\large{\frac{|x-y|}{SE(x-y)}}$$

13 If the value of this test statistic is greater than 1.96 then there is evidence, with a 95% level of confidence, of a statistically significant difference in the two populations with respect to that characteristic. Otherwise, it cannot be stated with confidence that there is a real difference between the populations with respect to that characteristic.

Glossary

Show all

A child permanently placed with a parent or parents other than their birth mother or father, by a formal legal arrangement. In this survey, a child classified as being adopted is as reported by the respondent.

A person who is 18 years or over.

Blended family

A couple family containing two or more children aged 0-17 years, of whom at least one is the natural or adopted child of both members of the couple, and at least one is the step child of either member of the couple. Blended families may also include other children who are not the natural children of either parent.

Child

A child is:

• any person aged under 15 years in the household;
• a person of any age who is a natural, adopted, step or foster child of a couple or lone parent, usually resident in the same household, and who does not have a child or partner of their own usually resident in the household; or
• a person aged 15-17 years who was reported as being under the guardianship (see guardian) or care of another person aged 18 years and over in the household.

Cohabitation

Cohabitation refers to members of a couple, both aged at least 15 years, who are in a registered or de facto marriage and are usually resident in the same household

Couple family

A family based on two persons who are in a registered or de facto marriage and who are usually resident in the same household. The family may include any number of dependent children, non-dependent children and other related or unrelated individuals. It is not necessary for a parent-child relationship to be formed, thus a couple family can consist of a couple without children present in the household.

De facto marriage

The relationship between two people who live together in a consensual union who are not registered as married to each other. A de facto marriage may exist between a couple of the opposite sex or of the same sex.

Dependent child

A dependent child is a person who is a child (see child) aged under 15 years, or who is a child aged 15-24 years and a full-time dependent student (see dependent student

Dependent student

A child who is 15-24 years of age and who attends a secondary or tertiary educational institution as a full-time student and who has no partner or child of his or her own usually resident in the same household.

Employed

Employed persons comprise all those aged 15 years and over who, during the reference week:

• worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind in a job or business or on a farm (comprising 'Employees', 'Employers' and 'Own account workers'); or
• worked for one hour or more without pay in a family business or on a farm (i.e. contributing family workers); or
• were employees who had a job but were not at work and were:
• away from work for less than four weeks up to the end of the reference week; or
• away from work for more than four weeks up to the end of the reference week and received pay for some or all of the four week period to the end of the reference week; or
• away from work as a standard work or shift arrangement; or
• on strike or locked out; or
• on workers' compensation and expected to return to their job; or
• were employers or own account workers who had a job, business or farm, but were not at work.

Employed full-time

Persons who usually worked 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs) and those who, although usually working less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more during the reference week.

Employed part-time

Persons who usually worked less than 35 hours a week (in all jobs) and either did so during the reference week, or were not at work in the reference week.

Family

Two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering; and who are usually resident in the same household. The basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of a couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other blood relationship. Some households will, therefore, contain more than one family. See Family, Household and Income Unit Variables (cat. no. 1286.0) for further information on family classifications.

Family composition

The differentiation of families based on the presence or absence of couple relationships, parent-child relationships, child dependency relationships or other blood relationships, in that order of preference.

Family structure

The classification of families according to whether they are either intact families, step families, blended families, other couple families, or one parent families.

Foster child

A person who lives with a person or persons who are not his or her natural, adoptive or step parent(s). The definition of foster child includes dependent and non-dependent children. If the foster child is no longer dependent, but still regards his or her relationship with appropriate members of the household as a parent-child relationship, then he or she remains a foster child.

Foster family

A family which has at least one foster child aged 0-17 years. There may be other children in the family who are the natural, adopted or step children of the parent(s).

Grandparent family

A family in which the guardians (see guardian) or main carers of children aged 0-17 years are the grandparents of the children.

Group household

A group household is a household consisting of two or more unrelated people where all persons are aged 15 years or over. There are no reported couple relationships, parent-child relationships or other blood relationships in these households.

Guardian

A person aged 18 years and over who is reported as being the guardian or main carer of any child(ren) aged 0-17 years, regardless of the existence of any legal arrangement. Throughout this publication, the use of the term 'parent' also refers to guardians.

Household

A person living alone or a group of related or unrelated people who usually live in the same private dwelling.

Intact family

A couple family containing at least one child aged 0-17 years who is the natural or adopted child of both members of the couple, and no child aged 0-17 years who is the step child of either member of the couple. Intact families may also include other children who are not the natural or adopted children of either parent, such as foster children.

Labour force status

A classification of the population aged 15 years and over into employed, unemployed or not in the labour force.

Lone parent

A person who has no spouse or partner usually resident in the household but who forms a parent-child relationship with at least one child usually resident in the household.

Marital status

A person's social marital status refers to their current living arrangements, that is whether or not they are living with another person in a couple relationship either in a registered marriage (see registered marriage) or a de facto marriage (see de facto marriage). A person's registered marital status refers to their status in relation to a legally registered marriage as either never married, currently married, separated, divorced or widowed. Some persons who are not living with their partner may still report their status as currently registered married rather than separated.

Natural child

A child who is related to his or her parent by birth.

Natural parent

A parent who is related to his or her child(ren) by birth.

Natural parent living elsewhere

One of a child's natural parents who is not usually resident in the same household as the child.

Non-dependent child

A natural, step, adopted or foster child of a couple or lone parent usually resident in the household, aged 15 years and over and who is not a full-time student aged 15-24 years, and who has no partner or child of his or her own usually resident in the household.

Non-family households

A household that consists of unrelated persons only. Non-family households are classified to one of the following categories:

• Group household - a household consisting of two or more unrelated persons where all persons are aged 15 years and over. There are no reported couple relationships, parent-child relationships or other blood relationships in these households.
• Lone person household - a household consisting of a person living alone.

Non-family member

A person for whom there is no identified couple relationship, parent-child relationship, or other blood relationship with any of the other usual residents of the household. They may live within a family household, or they may form a non-family household either as a lone person or a group household.

Non-resident parent

Persons aged 15 years and over who have one or more natural children aged 0–17 years living elsewhere.

One parent family

A family consisting of a lone parent with at least one dependent or non-dependent child (regardless of age) who is also usually resident in the household.

Examples of one parent families include:

• a 25-year-old parent with dependent children; and
• an 80-year-old parent living with a 50-year-old child.

Other family

A family of other related individuals residing in the same household. These individuals do not form a couple or parent-child relationship with any other person in the household and are not attached to a couple or one parent family in the household. For example, if two brothers are living together and neither is a spouse, a lone parent or a child, then they are classified as an 'other family'. However, if the two brothers share the household with the daughter of one of the brothers and her husband, then both brothers are classified as other related individuals and are attached to the couple family.

Other related individual

An individual who is related to members of the household, but who does not form a couple relationship or parent-child relationship (see child). He or she can be related through blood, step and in-law relationships and include any direct ancestors or descendants. Relatives beyond first cousin are excluded.

Other related individuals can form their own family type or can be attached to an already existing family. Those related individuals who reside in the same household and who do not form a couple or parent-child relationship with any other person in the household are classified as an 'other family'.

In cases where a couple family or one parent family has been formed, any persons who are related to members of these families and are usual residents of the household are other related individuals.

Parent

A natural, step, adoptive or foster mother or father of a child usually resident in the same household.

Any individual aged 18 years and over who was identified as being a guardian (see guardian) of a child aged 0-17 years was also classified as being a parent.

Partner

A person in a couple relationship with another person usually resident in the same household. The couple relationship may be either a registered or a de facto marriage.

Proportion of nights with other parent

The proportion of nights a child stays with their non-resident parent is derived from information on how often a child stays overnight with this other parent (e.g. weekly, fortnightly, etc.) and the number of nights the child usually stays overnight with the other parent during that period. For example, if a child stays overnight once a week with the other parent and usually stays for 2 nights when they visit, this would equal two sevenths, or 29% of nights with the other parent.

Registered marriage

A marriage between two people, usually resident in the same household, that has been registered.

Same sex couple

Two persons of the same sex who report a de facto partnership, and who are usually resident in the same household.

Spouse

A marital or de facto partner.

Step child

In a couple family, a child who is either the natural child of one partner but not of the other, or who was reported as being the step child of both parents. As a consequence of a relationship breakdown or the death of a spouse, some one parent families may also have children reported as step children.

Step family

A couple family containing one or more children aged 0-17 years, none of whom is the natural or adopted child of both members of the couple, and at least one of whom is the step child of either member of the couple. A step family may also include other children who are not the natural children of either parent.

Unrelated individual living in a family household

A person who lives in a family household, but who is not related to any person in any of the families in the household.

Quality declaration - summary

Institutional environment

For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

Data on Family Characteristics and Transitions were collected as part of the 2012-13 Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS). The MPHS is a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) and is designed to collect annual statistics on a small number of self-contained topics.

The Family Characteristics and Transitions topic collects a range of information on household and family composition, along with demographic and labour force characteristics of persons within households and families. The type of information collected has a particular focus on families with children aged 0-17 years. For those families, additional information about family structures, the social marital status of parents, and contact arrangements for children with a natural parent living elsewhere is also provided. The family transitions part of the survey also provides information on persons aged over 18 years and their experiences with a number of topics such as; death and divorces of parents, leaving the family home, the forming of marital relationships, children born and expectations of having children in the future.

The main users of the data are the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Timeliness

The Family Characteristics topic has been collected tri-annually since 1997. The content is largely repeated, which enables comparisons to be made over time. Data from the survey are released approximately 12 months after the completion of enumeration, however, for the 2012-13 data, it was released approximately 1.5 years after the completion of enumeration

Accuracy

The LFS, and consequently the MPHS, is primarily designed to provide estimates for the whole of Australia and, secondly, for each state and territory.

Estimates in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors. Sampling error is the error associated with taking a sample of dwellings rather than going to all dwellings in Australia. In this publication, the sampling error is measured by the relative standard error (RSE) which is the standard error expressed as a percentage of the estimate. Non-sampling errors can occur in any data collection, whether based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers, and errors in coding or processing of data. Every effort is made to reduce the non–sampling error by careful design and testing of the questions, training of interviewers, follow-up of respondents and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.

Only estimates (numbers and proportions) with RSEs less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes. Estimates with RSEs between 25% and 50% have been included and are annotated to indicate they are subject to high sample variability and should be used with caution. In addition, estimates with RSEs greater than 50% have also been included and annotated to indicate they are considered too unreliable for general use.

Coherence

The Family Characteristics topic was previously collected in 1997, 2003, 2006-07 and 2009-10. While there have been small changes each cycle, overall the data is generally comparable. The 2012-13 Family Characteristics and Transitions topic includes the family transitions topics which were last included in the 2006-07 survey, however, it does not include the child support topic which was included in the 2009-10 survey. For further information about changes between iterations of the survey, please refer to the Explanatory Notes

Interpretability

Further information on the technical aspects (including item definitions) associated with the statistics from the 2012-13 Family Characteristics and Transitions topic can be found in the Explanatory Notes, Technical Note and Glossary associated with this release.

Accessibility

All tables and associated RSEs are available in Excel spreadsheets which can be accessed from the Data downloads section.

Additional tables may also be available on request. The Data downloads section also includes an Excel spreadsheet containing a complete list of the data items available. Note that detailed data can be subject to high RSEs and, in some cases, may result in data being confidentialised.

In addition to the data available in the Excel spreadsheets, other tables will be able to be produced using TableBuilder, an online tool for creating tables and graphs. TableBuilder for the 2012–13 Family Characteristics and Transitions topic is expected to be available in the first half of 2015.

For further information about these or related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070, or email client.services@abs.gov.au. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Abbreviations

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 '000 thousands % percent ABS Australian Bureau of Statistics ACT Australian Capital Territory AIFS Australian Institute of Family Studies Aust. Australia CAI computer assisted interviewing CD collection district CURF confidentialised unit record file DSS Department of Social Services ERP estimated resident population FCS Family Characteristics Survey FCTS Family Characteristics and Transitions Survey ICF Indigenous community frame LFS Labour Force Survey MPHS Multipurpose Household Survey MPS Monthly Population Survey no. number NSW New South Wales NT Northern Territory Qld Queensland RADL Remote Access Data Laboratory RSE relative standard error SA South Australia SE standard error Tas. Tasmania Vic. Victoria WA Western Australia