Household relationships harmonised standard
This harmonised standard is under development. The suitability of the suggested data checks (which can be found under “presenting and reporting the data” on this page) are currently being reviewed. We are interested in hearing your view on these data checks, so if you have thoughts or comments please get in touch: email@example.com.
|Publication date:||27 November 2020|
|Who this is for:||Users and producers of statistics|
What is harmonisation?
Harmonisation is the process of making statistics and data more comparable, consistent and coherent. This harmonised standard sets out how to collect and report statistics to ensure comparability across different data collections in the Government Statistical Service (GSS).
Harmonisation produces more useful statistics that give users a greater level of understanding.
What do we mean by household relationship?
Household relationships are labels given to represent the relationship of each household member to the others. This is also sometimes known as the relationship matrix or relationship grid; however it is not always displayed in a grid format.
Questions and response options (inputs)
The harmonised question on this topic is designed to collect basic information, for use in the majority of surveys. It is not designed to replace questions used in specialist surveys where more detailed analysis is required.
Introducing the question
A possible introduction for this question is:
“There are a lot of changes taking place in the make-up of households and this section is to help find out what these changes are. I’d like you to tell me the relationship of each member of the household to every other member.”
|Question stem||Response options|
|How are members of this household related to each other? [Person 1] is the … of [Person 2].||Husband or wife|
|Legally registered civil partner|
|Son or daughter (including adopted child)|
|Son-in-law or daughter-in-law|
|Father or mother (including adopted parent)|
|Stepfather or stepmother|
|Father-in-law or mother-in-law|
|Brother or sister (including half brother or sister)|
|Stepbrother or stepsister|
|Brother-in-law or sister-in-law|
|Grandson or granddaughter|
|Grandfather or grandmother|
For this question, relatives of civil partners and of cohabiting couples are to be treated in the same way as relatives of spouses.
Foster children and foster parents are to be recorded under “unrelated”.
As well as this, the following interviewer guidance can be used for interviewer-led modes:
“Please ask in every case. You should not make assumptions about any relationship. You should probe on this question but be sensitive. It may be that someone described as a “son” or “brother” earlier is actually a stepson or adopted brother. Where possible, we want to know the true relationship. If you have doubts about any relationship, record as much information as possible to allow changes to coding later if appropriate.”
Using this standard
Guidance for data collection
This question should be placed after the names of household members have all been collected.
Types of data collection this standard is suitable for
These questions can be used in both self-complete (such as online or paper) and interviewer-led (such as telephone or face-to-face) surveys. In computer assisted interviews (both self-complete and interviewer led), the names can then be piped through so that the question stem reads [NAME] is the … of [NAME]. For paper self-complete surveys this can be set out by asking for names to be filled in alongside labels “person 1”, “person 2” etc.
Presenting and reporting the data (outputs)
This standard does not include a set way to output the data. It does, however, include a list of suggested data checks to ensure consistent and accurate recording.
The data checks are:
- hard check: A child should be younger than their parent or guardian
- hard check: A foster-parent should be older than their foster-child
- hard check: A foster-child should be younger than their foster-parent
- hard check: A grandparent should be older than their grandchild
- hard check: A parent or grandparent should be older than 15. Check that age has been recorded correctly
- soft check: A step or in law-parent is usually older than their step or in law-child
- soft check: A step-child or child-in law is usually younger than their step or in law-parent
- soft check: You have recorded this person’s relationship as “cohabitee” but both partners living arrangements are not stated as “cohabiting”
- hard check: You have recorded this person’s relationship as “spouse” but both partners partnership is not stated as “married”
- soft check: You have recorded this person’s relationship as “civil partner” but both partners partnership is not stated as “civil partnership”
- soft check: [person] is not married, civil partnered or cohabiting so they cannot have a partner in the household
- hard check: You have coded this person as married but age is under 16
- soft check: You have coded this person as civil partnered, but age is under 16
- soft check: You have coded this person as cohabiting, but age is under 16
- soft check: Household reference person may only have one (main) spouse or partner
The harmonisation team is currently reviewing the suitability of these checks. If you have any thoughts or comments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The questions used to output household relationships come from the GSS Harmonised standard of household relationships. This means the outputs are comparable with other surveys that use this standard. However, we would not recommend comparing household relationships from this output to other publications that do not use the harmonised measure.
This standard was updated in November 2020. As such, any survey using a previous version of this standard from before this data may not be comparable to those using the existing standard.
In the most recent publication, key changes to improve the standard suitability for multi-mode use are:
- A question stem has been included to allow the standard to be used in self-complete modes.
- To make this standard more accessible, abbreviated words have been written out in full, and punctuation reduced.
- Self-complete mode research shows respondents are more familiar with the gendered terms “father and mother” rather than “parent” and find them easier to locate. This standard has been edited accordingly.
- Testing showed civil partner was confused with common law partner or cohabiting partner, and such the legally registered element has been included.
- The term “cohabiting” was poorly understood in testing, as such it has been removed leaving the response option stating “partner”.
- In self-complete the option “other non-relative” does not make sense – “unrelated” (as used in Census 2021 for England and Wales) makes more grammatical sense so has been adopted.
Our users prize comparability with large data sources, such as the Censuses across the UK. Changes have therefore been made to bring the harmonised standard closer to the Census 2021 England and Wales questions:
- In line with Census 2021 for England and Wales, Census 2021 for Northern Ireland and Census 2022 for Scotland, half siblings are now recorded as siblings rather than as step siblings.
- The upcoming Censuses across the UK do not have a separate category for “foster” response options, instead categorising them as “unrelated”. To improve comparability with Census data collection we have chosen to remove “foster” options.
When comparing data using the existing household relationship standard to sources using the previous version, please bear these changes in mind as they may influence comparability.
Demographic information harmonised standards:
We are always interested in hearing from users so we can develop our work. If you use or produce statistics based on this topic, get in touch: email@example.com.