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Couple relationships

A couple relationship is defined as two people usually residing in the same household who share a social, economic and emotional bond usually associated with marriage and who consider their relationship to be a marriage or marriage-like union. This relationship is identified by the presence of a registered marriage or de facto marriage.

Couple relationship variables

The Census contains several variables which provide a five-yearly snapshot of couple relationships in Australia.
These include: Relationship in Household (RLHP), Relationship as Reported for Couples (RLCP), Registered Marital Status (MSTP) and Social Marital Status (MDCP).

RLHP (Relationship in Household)

RLHP is derived from question 5 of the Census form. Question 5 forms the basis of a number of variables in the Census, as it asks about the relationships that exist in a dwelling between usual household residents and the primary household respondent (Person 1 on the form). The RLHP variable provides data as to whether an individual is in a registered marriage or in a same- or opposite-sex de facto relationship with another usual household resident.

Question 5 as it appeared on the 2011 Census Household Form

A text only version of this question is also available.

RLCP (Relationship as Reported for Couples)

RLCP is a new variable in the 2011 Census and is available upon request. The variable has similar categories to RLHP except that it records husband/wife or de-facto partnership as they are reported for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. This category allows a count of same-sex couples who identify themselves as being in a registered marital relationship.

MSTP (Registered Marital Status)

MSTP is derived from question 6 on the Census form and provides information about a respondent's current registered marital status (widowed, divorced, separated, married or never married).

Question 6 as it appeared on the 2011 Census Household Form.

A text only version of this question is also available

MDCP (Social Marital Status)

MDCP is derived from RLHP and MSTP. The variable provides information about an individual's relationship status in terms of whether she or he forms a couple relationship with another person living in the same usual residence, and the nature of that relationship.

Differences between registered marriage, social marriage and couple relationship as reported

  • The MSTP variable provides data about a person's own current registered marital status, regardless of their reported relationship to another person in their household.
  • The MDCP variable provides data about how a person is married in a 'social way' (i.e. their current living status), regardless of what their marital status may be.
  • The RLHP and RLCP variables provide data about how an individual perceives and reports their relationship to someone else in that household.

More information

More information on relationships is also available from the following ABS sources.

Family Characteristics, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 4442.0)

The 2009-10 Family Characteristics Survey collected information on household and family composition, along with the social and registered marital status of parents. Information is presented for the Australian population living in private dwellings, excluding very remote parts of Australia.

ABS marriages and divorces publications

The ABS marriages and divorces publications provide data that is sourced from state and territory legal courts, as well as state and territory births, deaths and marriages registrars. These publications provide more accurate estimates of marriage and divorce in Australia than the Census, because the self-reporting nature of Census data allows the possibility of non-response and statistical error.

Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3310.0)

Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012-2013 (cat. no. 2071.0)
This article examines numbers and characteristics of same sex couples in Australia since the 1996 Census, when same sex couple counts were introduced into the Census.

Love Me Do, in Australian Social Trends, March Quarter 2012 (cat. no. 4102.0)
links to
This article looks at trends in marriage, de facto relationships and divorce between 1990 and 2010, as well as the effect of these trends on the family.

Couples In Australia, in Australian Social Trends, March Quarter 2009 (cat. no. 4102.0)
This article provides an analysis of couple relationship types and characteristics in Australia.

Fact sheets

  • Couple relationships


Enumeration procedures

2006 fact sheets