Census family structure (for census family)

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on May 26, 2021.


Census family structure refers to the combination of relatives that comprise a census family. Classification on this variable considers the presence or absence of: married spouses or common-law partners and children.

Census family is defined as a married couple and the children, if any, of either and/or both spouses; a couple living common law and the children, if any, of either and/or both partners; or a parent of any marital status in a one-parent family with at least one child living in the same dwelling and that child or those children. All members of a particular census family live in the same dwelling. Children may be biological or adopted children regardless of their age or marital status as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their own married spouse, common-law partner or child living in the dwelling. Grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents present also constitute a census family.


'Census family structure' is derived from the responses to questions about the relationships among the people who live in the household. Census families that contain a married or common-law couple (either with or without children) are classified as couple families. Census families consisting of one parent with his or her child(ren) are classified as one-parent families.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard is compatible with the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 3", 2017. The UN recommendations include a classification of nuclear households (those consisting entirely of a single family nucleus) which includes the distinction between families containing a couple (either married or in a consensual union) and those with one parent, which is the focus of this standard.

This standard is also compatible with the "Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations for the 2020 Censuses of Population and Housing", 2015 which recommended classification distinctions similar to those in the UN recommendations.


Relation to previous version

  • Census family structure (for census family) May 26, 2021 to current

    The definition of the statistical unit and the classification have been modified, as has the definition of the concept in French.

  • Census family structure of census family November 16, 2015 to May 25, 2021

    This is an update of 'Family structure of census family'. The definition and derivation have been simplified by making the concept specific to census families. The concept has been renamed "Census family structure".

  • Family structure of census family October 22, 2007 to November 15, 2015

    'Family structure of census family' is incorporated within the classifications of two previous standards, 'Census family marital structure' and 'Census family parental structure'. The current standards take a more simplified approach, presenting each classification dimension as a separate concept. This approach provides greater conceptual and definitional clarity while simultaneously allowing users more flexibility in constructing whatever more complex, multidimensional classifications meet their needs for data presentation.

  • Census family marital structure July 15, 1998 to October 21, 2007

    'Family structure of census family' replaces the standard 'Census family marital structure' as of October 22, 2007.

  • Census family parental structure July 15, 1998 to October 21, 2007

    'Family structure of census family' replaces the standard 'Census family parental structure' as of October 22, 2007.

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