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Family type


Family type is a derived variable that classifies family nuclei according to the presence or absence of couples, parents, and children.

  • A family nucleus comprises a couple with or without child(ren), or one parent and their child(ren) whose usual residence is in the same household; the children do not have partners or children of their own living in that household. Included are people who were absent on census night but usually live in a particular dwelling, and are members of a family nucleus in that dwelling, as long as they were reported as being absent by the reference person on the dwelling form.

Related variables

  • Family type by child dependency status
  • Family type with type of couple
  • Family type by number of children
  • Type of couple
  • Number of people in family
  • Number of children in family
  • Number of dependent children in family
  • Number of adult children in family
  • Age of male partner in opposite-sex couple (with or without children)
  • Age of female partner in opposite-sex couple (with or without children)
  • Age of younger partner in same-sex couple (with or without children)
  • Age of older partner in same-sex couple (with or without children)
  • Age of youngest child in family
  • Age of youngest dependent child in family
  • Sex of sole parent

Where the data comes from

The key questions from which this variable (and related variables) is derived are questions 6 (relationship to reference person) and 21 (absentee relationship to reference person) on the dwelling form and question 19 (living arrangements) on the individual form.

How this data is classified

1 Couple without children

2 Couple with child(ren)

3 One parent with child(ren)

To be a 'child in a family nucleus', a person must usually reside with at least one parent, and have no partner or child(ren) of their own living in the same household.

Note that 'child in a family nucleus' can apply to a person of any age.

For further information about this classification, refer to the:

For background information on classifications and standards, refer to the Classifications and related statistical standards page.

Subject population

The subject population for this variable are families in private occupied dwellings.

The subject population is the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

Non-response and data that could not be classified

This variable does not have a non-response/not classifiable category because the process of determining whether a group of people constitute a family also involves determining what type of family they form.

How this data is used

Data from family and household variables is used:

  • by central government agencies, local authorities, private organisations, and researchers in the formulation of social policy, for planning and monitoring programmes, and for research purposes 
  • by Statistics NZ to derive household and family projections
  • in developing the New Zealand Deprivation Index.

Data quality processes

All census data was checked thoroughly during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it met quality standards and is suitable for use. These quality checks included edits.

All data must meet minimum quality standards to make it suitable for use.

Quality level

quality level is assigned to all census variables: foremost, defining, or supplementary.

Family type is a defining variable. Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation, or monitoring. These variables are given second priority in terms of quality, time, and resources across all phases of a census.

Mode of collection impacts – online form compared with paper form

The online forms had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from online forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done. There will always be a mode effect but this cannot be measured. Statistics NZ design and test to minimise the effects of mode for all questions.

There were differences between how the forms were completed online and on paper for this variable:

  • On the online form, only one response could be selected for each person's relationship to the reference person in questions 6 and 21 on the dwelling form. Multiple responses for a person's relationship to the reference person were possible when forms were completed on paper.
  • For the living arrangements question, the online form did not allow the inconsistent multiple response of 'I live alone' to be selected at the same time as one or more responses indicating people who the respondent lived with. If the 'I live alone' box was marked, any other responses to living arrangements disappeared. Inconsistent multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

High: fit for use – with minor data quality issues only. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

  • Care should be taken when analysing family type data for same-sex couples, as the numbers involved are small and the information provided by respondents that was used to derive this data was not always consistent and correct. This data is fit for use, but caution is advised when undertaking detailed analysis.
  • Living apart together (LAT) couples have not been counted as families in the dataset as the standard definition for a family requires that all members share a usual residence.
  • Data on grandparents in a parent role is fit for use for this census, with numbers that are comparable to 2001 data.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

Comparing this data with previous census data

This data is fully comparable with 2001 Census data. With the exception of data for grandparents in a parent role, this data is also fully comparable with 2006 Census data. Changes in the data over this time period can be interpreted as real changes because there have been no changes in the way the data has been collected, defined, and classified.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

Census is the only information source that provides comprehensive information for small areas and small populations. However alternative sources of information about this subject are available:

Data from these alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due to differences in scope, coverage, non-response rates, data being collected at different periods of time, alternative sources being sample surveys and as such subject to sampling errors, or differences in question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer-administered). Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

Census data is used as the baseline for population projections so the accuracy of the projections tends to deteriorate with time elapsed after the census date.

Further information about this data

When using this data, be aware of the following:

  • During census processing, the people in each private dwelling (including absentees) have codes allocated to them that indicate who they live with and their roles within families (eg partner, parent, child). This is called family coding. The family type derivation uses the family coding to identify family nuclei within households and to determine the family type of each family nucleus.
  • The family types of Couple with children and One parent with children can include situations in which other people, including grandparents, are in a parental role.
  • The One parent with children category will include many families in which the children are in shared care and alternate between living with one parent and living with the other parent in separate dwellings. The household in which the children have been included will depend on how the forms were filled in. The help notes on this said, "Children in shared care should give the address where they spend most nights. If children spend equal amounts of time at different addresses, give only one of those addresses – their census night location".
  • There are some people who are not part of a family but have a social marital status of Partnered.
  • There are a small number of instances in which people's age and family characteristics appear inconsistent.
  • A family can be a couple without children, a couple with child(ren), or one parent with child(ren). A household, on the other hand, can be a person living alone, one or more families, or related/unrelated individuals, all sharing the same usual residence.
  • For information on family income, please see Total income.
  • There has been no significant change to the family data that can be attributed to the longer than usual time period between censuses.

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable.

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