Family blending

Families may move through a cycle of formation, change and re-formation. A family consisting of a couple and one or more children may become a one-parent family due to separation or the death of the other parent. If the lone parent re-partners, the resulting family is classified as a step family. When children are born to the partners in the new couple a blended family is formed.

Census data has included the Family Blending (FLBF) classification variable since the 2006 Census, for couple families living in private dwellings.

Family Blending (FLBF)

The Family Blending classification variable (FLBF) was introduced in the 2006 Census and is derived mainly from question 5 on the Census Household Form (and question 53, for people who were temporarily absent on Census Night), which asks for each person's relationship to Person 1 and Person 2 on the form.

Question 5 as it appeared on the 2011 Census Household Form

A text only version of this question is also available.

It classifies couple families that are living in private dwellings, based on the relationships between the couple and children in the family. The couple relationship is established where either a registered or de facto marriage is reported, and includes same-sex couples. Only children who are usually resident are included, but both parents and children who are temporarily absent are included. Children of any age are included, as long as they do not have children of their own.
Couple families are classified as intact, blended, step and other couple families, depending on the relationship of resident children to the partners in the couple.

An intact family contains at least one child who is the natural or adopted child of both partners in the couple, but no step children.

A step family has at least one resident step child, but no child who is the natural or adopted child of both partners. In the Census, a child is considered a step child if they were reported as the step child of one or both partners in the couple, regardless of their dependency status.

A blended family has two or more children; at least one child who is the natural or adopted child of both partners, and at least one who is the step child of one of them.

An other couple family is one that has no resident natural, adopted or step children of either partner.

Intact families, step families and blended families are further classified into those with other children present and those with no other children present.

Other children refers to children who are neither the natural, nor the adopted or step child of either member of the couple, and may include foster children of any age, otherwise related children aged under 15 years, or grandchildren being raised by their grandparents.

Examples of relationships that would be included:
  • couple families with only non-dependent children 15 and over
  • grandparent couples with only non-dependent grandchildren
  • a couple with their niece or nephew living with them, where the parents are not present.

Other information about family blending

The FLBF variable family structure and relationships between the couple and the children, and can be cross-classified with other variables to obtain information about the family's income and other family characteristics. However, it does not provide information about parents who do not live with the children.

Since 1997, the ABS Family Characteristics Survey (FCS) has provided data about the characteristics of both one-parent and couple families with children under 18. The survey findings include detailed information about the children and their contact with parents living elsewhere, family composition, marital status, life-stage classifications, and the labour force status and income of parents. The latest survey was conducted in 2009-10. The survey also reports on children in these couple families whose natural parents are living elsewhere. The survey is conducted sporadically, with current plans to repeat the Family Characteristics topic every three years.

The differences between the FCS and the FLBF Census variable are that the FLBF variable:
  • excludes non-resident relatives of the children
  • includes children of any age (as long as they do not have children of their own)
  • excludes one-parent families
  • includes people living in very remote parts of Australia.

Related information

See also these fact sheets:
Grandparent families
Couple relationships

Love Me Do, in Australian Social Trends, March Quarter 2012 (cat. no. 4102.0)
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.