Census family

Part A - Short definition:

Refers to a married couple (with or without children), a common-law couple (with or without children) or a lone parent family.

Part B - Detailed definition:

Refers to a married couple (with or without children of either and/or both spouses), a common-law couple (with or without children of either and/or both partners) or a lone parent of any marital status, with at least one child. A couple may be of opposite sex or same sex. A couple family with children may be further classified as either an intact family in which all children are the biological and/or adopted children of both married spouses or of both common-law partners or a stepfamily with at least one biological or adopted child of only one married spouse or common-law partner and whose birth or adoption preceded the current relationship. Stepfamilies, in turn may be classified as simple or complex. A simple stepfamily is a couple family in which all children are biological or adopted children of one, and only one, married spouse or common-law partner whose birth or adoption preceded the current relationship. A complex stepfamily is a couple family which contains at least one biological or adopted child whose birth or adoption preceded the current relationship. These families contain children from:

  • each married spouse or common-law partner and no other children
  • one married spouse or common-law partner and at least one other biological or adopted child of the couple
  • each married spouse or common-law partner and at least one other biological or adopted child of the couple.

Census years:

2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, 1971,Footnote 1 1966,Footnote 1 1961Footnote 1

Reported for:

Population in private households (including those enumerated outside Canada)Footnote 2

Question number(s):

Derived variable: Questions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Responses:

Not applicable

Remarks:

'Children' refer to blood, step or adopted sons and daughters (regardless of age or marital status) who are living in the same dwelling as their parent(s), as well as grandchildren in households where there are no parents present. Sons and daughters who are living with their married spouse or common-law partner, or with one or more of their own children, are not considered to be members of the census family of their parent(s), even if they are living in the same dwelling. In addition, the sons or daughters who do not live in the same dwelling as their parent(s) are not considered members of the census family of their parent(s). Sons or daughters who study or have a summer job elsewhere but return to live with their parent(s) during the year are considered members of the census family of their parent(s).

As of 2011, a child living with a couple family can be identified as a child in an intact family; the child of one parent in a simple stepfamily; the child of one parent in a complex stepfamily; or the child of both parents in a complex stepfamily.

As of 2006, a married couple may be of opposite or same sex.

The 2001 Census introduced several changes to the census family concept:

  • Two persons living in a same-sex common-law relationship and their children residing in the same household, if any, are considered a census family.
  • Children in a census family can have been previously married (as long as they are not currently living with a married spouse or common-law partner). Prior to the 2001 Census, they had to be never-married.
  • A grandchild living in a three-generation household where the parent (middle generation) is never-married will, contrary to previous censuses, now be considered as a child in the census family of his or her parent, provided the grandchild is not living with his or her own married spouse, common-law partner, or child. Prior to the 2001 Census, the census family consisted of the two older generations.
  • A grandchild present in the household of his or her grandparent(s), where a middle-generation parent is not present, will now be considered as a child in the census family of his or her grandparent, provided the grandchild is not living with his or her own married spouse, common-law partner, or child. Prior to the 2001 Census, such a grandchild would not be considered as the member of a census family.

As of 2011, all write-in responses for Question 6 (Relationship to Person 1) are captured on the census form, so that family characteristics can be available for 100% census data.

In the 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses, the write-in responses for Question 6 (Relationship to Person 1) on the short questionnaire were not coded to the appropriate detailed relationship value, but were classified as 'other' relationships. Only write-in responses from the long questionnaire (20% sample) were fully coded. As a result, family characteristics are available only for the 20% sample for those years.

In censuses prior to 1991, the families of married couples and those of opposite-sex common-law couples together constituted husband-wife families and appeared as such in most census family tables.

The census family and its associated classifications and variables are derived according to responses to the questions on sex, date of birth, marital status, common-law status and relationship to Person 1. In addition, consideration is given to the order in which household members are listed on the questionnaire.

Figure 19 provides an overview of the census family variables.

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