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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' is a couple, with or without child(ren), or one parent and their child(ren) usually resident in the same dwelling. The children do not have partners or children of their own living in the same household. People who usually live in a particular dwelling, and are members of a family nucleus in that dwelling, but who are absent on census night, are included, as long as they are reported as being absent by the reference person on the dwelling form.

Relationship to questionnaire(s)

The key questions from which data on family type (and related variables) is derived are questions 6 and 21 on the dwelling form (PDF 783kb) and question 19 on the individual form (PDF 395kb).

Subject population

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

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

Non-response rate

There is no not classifiable rate for family type. The family type classification does not have a not classifiable category. This is because the process of determining whether a group of people form a family also involves determining what type of family they form.

Quality Management Strategy priority level

Family type is a defining variable.

The Census Quality Management Strategy assigns a priority level to all census variables.

Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation or monitoring. These variables are given secondary priority in terms of quality, time and resources across all phases of the 2006 Census.

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

Comparability with 1996 and 2001 Census data

There are issues affecting the comparability of this data with 1996 and 2001 Census data:

  • The 2001 and 2006 family type classifications do not have the child dependency subcategories used in 1996. However, family type data with these subcategories is available via the family type by child dependency status variable.
  • There was a change in the classification of young people not living with their parents. In 1996, everyone under 18 years who: was not employed full time; did not have a child and/or partner; and did not report living with parents, was coded as a child in a family nucleus and given a child dependency status of 'dependent child'. For 2001 and 2006, the age criterion was changed to people under 15 years old. This change, however, has not had a major impact on the comparability of the data over time.

Significant issues

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.

Other things to be aware of

  • 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.
  • Family type is only output in the following categories:
    • couple without children
    • couple with child(ren)
    • one parent with child(ren).

All of the above family types 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 joint custody 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 joint custody should give the address where they spend most nights. If children spend equal amounts of time at different addresses, they should give only one of those addresses."
  • 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.
  • All census data was subject to considerable checks (including edits) during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it meets quality standards and is suitable for use. These checks were applied to data supplied both on paper and on Internet forms. In addition to these quality checks, the Internet form 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 Internet 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 were differences between how the forms were completed on the Internet and on paper for this variable:
    • On the Internet, 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 Internet 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.
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