Collection methods

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Family, Household and Income Unit Variables
Reference period

Procedures for processing family variables

The following steps need to take place to process data about families: 

  • Identify the usual residents of the household.
  • Describe the relationships between the usual residents using an initial household reference person.
  • Apply the rules for forming families (see the rules for identifying and coding families in the 'Family composition' standard). At this stage it may also be necessary to reallocate the household and family reference person(s) depending on the complexity of the household (for further details see Appendix A of the 'Relationship in household' standard).
  • Code 'Relationship in household', 'Family composition' and other variables as required.

Collection methods

While information on families can be collected using different methodologies it always follows the same sequence.

Initially, a 'Household reference person' is identified. This person is the first named person entered on the collection form and is called 'Person 1'. They are the reference point to which the 'Relationship in household' is anchored. 'Relationship in household' information provides information on 'Social marital status'. Once relationships within the household have been established and coded, reference is made to the ages of children and further questions about student status are asked to determine whether children aged 15-24 years are dependent or not. Next, rules are applied to the relationship and dependency information to establish the 'Family composition'. 'Family composition' data can then be used to determine the 'Household composition'. If required, additional questions can be asked to determine 'Registered marital status'.

In practice, identification of the 'Household reference person' is either a correction of the identification made in the field, which occurs later during the coding process, or more usually a result of the appropriate person being selected automatically. Automatic selection of 'Person 1' can occur in two ways, depending on the method of collection:

  • In self-completed collections such as the Census, the instruction on the form is to "Enter the householder or any adult household member as 'Person 1', and if present, the spouse or partner as 'Person 2'.
  • In interviewer-based collections, the interviewer instruction is to ask "What are the names of all the people who usually live here?". As the respondent will usually list themselves first, they become 'Person 1' and thus the household reference person. Note that the ABS Interviewers Manual allows the respondent to nominate a different household member as Person 1 and the interviewer is advised to accept this provided that person is a suitable household reference person. For example, a person aged under 15 years is not suitable.

Standard question module

For the 'Relationship in household' question modules see the 'Standard question modules' section in the 'Relationship in household' standard.

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