Collection methods

Latest release
Family, Household and Income Unit Variables
Reference period

Standard question module

The initial requirement in the Interviewer-based collection's question module is to determine who are the usual residents of the household. This is achieved by asking the following question:

'What are the names of all the people who usually live here?'

Each person named is assigned a row number and a person number. The first person named is identified as Person 1, the second person as Person 2 and so on (see Appendix A of the 'Relationship in household' variable for details on identifying family and household reference persons).

The following question is then asked of all usual residents of the household, except for Person 1:

Q1. What is (Your/the Person's) relationship to (Person 1)?

If the response to Q1 is anything other than 'spouse', 'partner', 'father', 'mother', 'son' (including step, foster and adopted relationships), and 'daughter' (including step, foster and adopted relationships), and there are more than two usual residents in the household, a further question is asked:

Q2. Are/Is (You/the Person) more closely related to anyone else in the household? (For example, as a Husband/Wife, Partner or Child.)

This allows the identification of additional families within the household. It may be asked of some, all or none of the usual residents of the household.

The identification of de facto couples, including same-sex couples, is reliant on respondents volunteering this information in reply to general questions about relationships between members of the household. More detailed questioning on this subject is considered intrusive.

The remaining questions are asked of usual residents of the household. However, they can be restricted to people aged between 15-24 years if it is operationally feasible. The following question is used to determine whether persons who are 15 to 24 years of age are dependent children. In some collections the information obtained from Q3 (and Q4) below on student status is instead obtained from question modules on education topics. Where this occurs these questions need not be asked as part of the 'Relationship in household' module.

Q3.Is [the person]/are you currently studying at a school, TAFE college, university or other educational institution as a full-time student?

In collections where data on part-time students are also required, then the following questions are asked instead of the question above:

Q3.Is [the person]/are you currently studying at a school, TAFE college, university or other educational institution?
 Yesto Q4
Q4.Is [the person]/are you currently studying full-time or part-time?

Self-completed collections

The standard question module for self-completed collections consists of two questions. Self-completed collections do not have the benefit of an interviewer to help select the appropriate household reference person so a simple statement should be included as part of the instructions for Question 1. In the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, the instructions were:

  • "Person 1: The householder if present, otherwise any adult member of the household."
  • "Person 2: The spouse or partner of 'Person 1' if present, otherwise any person present."
  • "Persons 3 to 6: Any other person present in the household."

As shown below, Question 1 does not require a response from Person 1. Each subsequent person is required to mark the appropriate box in response to the above instruction. The set of response categories for Person 2 differs from those used for Person 3 and so on.

Q1.What is the person's relationship to Person 1/Person 2?
 Person 1Person 2Person 3
 No answer required.☐ Husband or wife of Person 1☐ Child of both Person 1 & Person 2
  ☐ De facto partner of Person 1☐ Child of Person 1 only
  ☐ Child of Person 1☐ Child of Person 2 only
  ☐ Step-child of Person 1☐ Brother or sister of Person 1
  ☐ Brother or sister of Person 1☐ Unrelated flatmate or co-tenant of Person 1
  ☐ Unrelated flatmate or co-tenant of Person 1☐ Other relationship to Person 1
please specify
  ☐ Other relationship to Person 1
please specify

A second question is asked of all usual residents of the household. Responses to the question determine whether any person aged 15-24 years is classified as a dependent child.

Q2.Is the person attending a school or any other educational institution?
 Include pre-school and external or correspondence students
 Yes, full-time student
 Yes, part-time student

Standard input categories

'Relationship in household' data, as originally collected, are dependent on who is Person 1. If Person 1 proves not to be an appropriate reference person on which to base 'Family composition' coding during subsequent processing, for example when a non-dependent child is selected rather than that person's parent, raw data must be further processed in order to obtain the input categories of the 'Relationship in household' classification (see Appendix A of the 'Relationship in household' variable for details on identifying family and household reference persons).

As mentioned in the section on 'Discussion of Conceptual Issues' (see the 'Underlying Concepts' page), collection methods for this data vary between surveys and Censuses. This results in two input classifications, specifically for interviewer-based and self-completed forms, as follows:

Interviewer-based collections

In Interviewer-based collections, the 'Relationship in household' categories are designed specifically for the process of family formation. Any requirement that detailed 'Relationship in household' data be obtained from household surveys would necessitate asking for additional information. This would usually only take place in the context of a household survey that is intended to investigate particular issues.

The input categories used for household surveys describe the relationships of people in the household to Person 1, who may not be the appropriate Reference Person. No code numbers are given for the categories because any codes relating to the category names are used only for processing those categories into family formations. There are nine groups of categories:

Household reference person



Adopted father
Foster father
Adopted mother
Foster mother
Father in-law
Brother in-law

De facto husband
De facto wife



Adopted brother
Foster brother
Adopted sister
Foster sister

Mother in-law
Sister in-law
Adopted son
Foster son
Adopted daughter
Foster daughter
Son in-law
Daughter in-law

Not applicable
Not related


Self-completed collections

For Self-completed collections, the standard input categories are the two digit categories provided in the 'Standard Classification and Code Structure' section (see the 'Classification and Coding' page).

For operational reasons, code 91 is recommended for responses of 'Visitor' in collections in which visitors to a household are in-scope of the collection, such as the Census of Population and Housing. The code 99 is recommended for 'Other non-classifiable relationships' of people if required. Censuses also use an additional supplementary code 'VV' to identify overseas visitors.

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