Chapter 3 Family diversity

Key statistics at a glance

Household types and family size

  • In 2006, almost all of the 1,578,700 children living in NSW lived at home.
    • The 19,600 children (1.2%) who do not live at home lived in a range of dwellings including hotels or hostels, school residences (e.g. boarding schools), hospitals, childcare institutions or corrective institutions (e.g. prison or juvenile justice).
  • In 2006, most children (79.4%) lived in households with one or two children. Aboriginal children were slightly more likely to live in households with more children.
    • The average number of children per household was highest in the Northern, Far West and North Western and the Central West, Murray and Murrumbidgee areas of NSW.
    • Households in the Sydney area were, on average, largest in Canterbury–Bankstown and smallest in Inner Sydney and the Eastern Suburbs areas.

Children in out-of-home care

  • At June 30 2010, 17,400 children were in out-of-home care. This is a rate of 10.7 children in every 1,000. Half of these children lived with a relative or kin.
    • Aboriginal children made up almost one-third of children in out-of-home care.
    • The rates of children in out-of-home care ranged from 5.1 in every 1,000 infants aged less than one year to 12 in every 1,000 children aged 5–8 and 9–14 years old.
    • At June 30 2002 to June 30 2010, the number of children in out-of-home care increased by 87.6 per cent.

Housing tenure

  • In 2006, most children lived in accommodation that was fully owned or being purchased.
    • Almost one-third (31.6%) lived in rented housing. Aboriginal children were more likely to live in rented accommodation than average.
    • The Northern, Far West, North Western (all 36.0%), Richmond and Mid-North Coast (both 35.8%) areas had the highest proportions of children living in rental accommodation.
    • Within Sydney, children were most likely to live in rental accommodation in Central Western Sydney (41.1%) and least likely in Central Northern Sydney (19.6%).

Educational attainment of parents

  • In 2006, most mothers and fathers of dependent children had completed education to at least Year 12 or equivalent.
    • A higher proportion of fathers (77.5%) had completed Year 12 or equivalent education than mothers (65.9%). The proportion of mothers and fathers of Aboriginal children who had attained Year 12 was lower than average.
    • Areas with low proportions of parents who had completed Year 12 or equivalent were the Far West and North Western.
    • In the Sydney area, Fairfield–Liverpool and Outer South Western Sydney had a lower than average proportion of parents who had completed Year 12; while there was a higher proportion in the Eastern Suburbs, Lower Northern Sydney and Central Northern Sydney.

Parental employment

  • In 2006, most dependent children had either one or both parents in employment.
    • Two per cent of dependent children had one or both parents unemployed; 0.5 per cent of dependent children in couple households had unemployed parents, compared to 8.4 per cent of dependent children in single-parent households. A higher proportion of Aboriginal dependent children had one or both parents unemployed (6.1%).
    • The Mid-North Coast and Far West areas of NSW had a higher proportion of dependent children with unemployed parents than average.
    • Within the Sydney area, Gosford–Wyong, Fairfield–Liverpool, Outer South Western Sydney, Blacktown and Canterbury–Bankstown had the highest proportion of dependent children with unemployed parents.

Healthy family functioning

  • In 2007–2008, most families with children aged 0–15 years (91.9%) lived in homes with healthy family functioning.
    • Children living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of NSW were less likely to live in homes with healthy family functioning.

Family activities

  • In 2008, a greater proportion of children aged 4–5 years old were read to by an adult on a regular basis (45.5%) compared with children aged 8–9 years (9.5%).
    • Just over two-thirds of children aged 4–5 years and 8–9 years were involved in everyday activities such as cooking or caring for pets.

Household types and family size

The Australian Census of Population and Housing provides the best source of data on household types in NSW. Household type statistics are based on responses to the ABS standard questions on relationships of persons living in a dwelling and dwelling type. Further information can be found in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

In 2006, almost all the 1,578,700 children in NSW lived in private households (Table A3.1 (XLSX 290.5KB)). The majority (92.3%) lived in households with one family in residence (Table A3.8 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The 19,600 children (1.2%) who did not live in private households lived in a range of dwellings including hotels or hostels, school residences (e.g. boarding schools), hospitals, childcare institutions or corrective institutions (e.g. prison or juvenile justice).

The average number of children per household was 1.9. Most (79.4%) lived in households with one or two children, 14.9 per cent lived in households with three children and the remainder (5.5%) lived in households with four or more children. A slightly higher proportion of Aboriginal children lived in homes with four or more children (10.4%) (Figure 3.1)(Table A3.5 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.1: Number of children per household in private households with children, NSW, 2006

Notes: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.5 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The average number of children per household was highest in the Northern, Far West, North Western (all 2.1%), Central West, Murray, and Murrumbidgee (all 2.0%) areas of NSW (Table A3.6 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

In the Sydney area, households with children were on average larger in Canterbury–Bankstown (2.0%) and smaller in Inner Sydney and the Eastern Suburbs (1.6%) (Figure 3.2)(Table A3.7 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.2: Average number of children per household in private households with children in the Sydney Statistical Subdivisions, NSW, 2006

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.7 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Children in out-of-home care

Out-of-home care is provided to children who cannot live safely in their home. Children may live with relatives, foster carers, in residential care or independently.

The rate of children in out-of-home care is a key national indicator (AIHW 2010).

The NSW Department Families and Community Services collects data on all children in out-of-home care in NSW. This collection provides the most reliable source of information on these children. As with all administrative data caution should be exercised in interpretation. Typical problems include missing data, difference in respondents’ interpretations of the meaning of questions, differences in the responses because of the particular time the information was collected or recorded, definitional issues and mistakes in data preparation. More information about this collection is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

At June 30 2010, 17,400 children were in out-of-home care. This is a rate of 10.7 children in every 1,000. Aboriginal children made up one-third (33.2%) of these children (Table A3.13 (XLSX 290.5KB)). Half of the children lived with a relative or kin (50.8%) and over a third (38.5%) were living with foster carers (Table A3.14 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The rates of children in out-of-home care varied by age and ranged from five in every 1,000 infants (5.1 per 1,000 infants aged less than one year) to 12 in every 1,000 children aged 5–8 and 9–14 years (Figure 3.3)(Table A3.15 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.3: Children in out-of-home care, rate per 1,000 children by age, NSW, 30 June 2007 – 30 June 2010

Source: Department of Families and Community Services, 2011. (Table A3.15 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.4: Children entering out-of-home care, rate per 1,000 children by Community Services Region, NSW, 30 June 2010

Source: CCYP calculations based on Department of Families and Community Services Annual Statistics Report 2009/10. (Table A3.16 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

There is an increasing trend in the number of children in out-of-home care. Over the period at 30 June 2002 to as at 30 June 2010 this increase was 87.6 per cent. This increase is in line with the national trends (AIHW 2009).

The Community Services regions with the highest rate of children entering out-of-home care at June 30 2009 were Northern (16.1 per 1,000 children) and Western (15.8 per 1,000 children) (Figure 3.4)(Table A3.16 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 (NFPAC) was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on 30 April 2009 and sets out a national reform agenda in child protection and early intervention. The NFPAC is a 12-year strategic framework for reform, supported by rolling three-year action plans identifying specific actions, responsibilities and timeframes for implementation.

The NFPAC does not replace the existing child protection systems in each state and territory. The national approach creates a common framework with agreed reforms and aims to establish comparable definitions and data across jurisdictions.

One priority project under the NFPAC is to improve support for foster, kinship and grandparent carers. In December 2010, the Australian Government released national standards for out of home care, as part of the National Framework, which aim to ensure a consistent quality of care across Australia.

Source: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/families/progserv/Child_Abuse_Prevention/Pages/default.aspx.

Housing tenure

Home ownership can indicate family economic well-being. Research suggests that home owners are likely to have better health than those who rent (AIHW 2007; Waters, 2001).

The Australian Census of Population and Housing provides the best source of data on housing tenure of people in NSW. The housing tenure statistics are based on responses to the ABS standard question; ‘Is this dwelling: owned outright, owned with a mortgage, being rented, etc?’

It is important to note that a significant proportion of Census records did not record housing tenure (5.8% of NSW children). This data cannot be determined from the Census data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

In 2006, most children in NSW lived in housing that was fully owned or being purchased (67.8%), while 31.6 per cent lived in rented accommodation. Aboriginal children were more likely to live in rental accommodation (67.8%) than non-Aboriginal children (Table A3.17 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.18 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The proportion of children living in rental accommodation varied by geographic area. The Northern, Far West, North Western (all 36.0%), Richmond Tweed and Mid-North Coast areas (all 35.8%) had the highest proportion of children living in rental accommodation (Table A3.20 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Within the Sydney area, 30.7 per cent of children lived in rented housing. Areas with a higher proportion of children in rental accommodation included Central Western Sydney (41.1%). Children in Central Northern Sydney (19.6%) were less likely than average to live in rental accommodation (Figure 3.5)( Table A3.21 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.5: Tenure status of children living in private households in Sydney Statistical Subdivisions, NSW, 2006

Note: Percentages exclude those where information on tenure was unavailable.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.21 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

As children get older, the proportion of children living in fully-owned accommodation increases and the proportion living in rented accommodation decreases. There were 39.6 per cent of infants aged less than one year, 36.9 per cent of 1–4 year olds, 32.8 per cent of 5–8 year olds, 29.4 per cent of 9–14 year olds and 25.0 per cent of 15–17 year olds living in rental accommodation (Table A3.19 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Under the National Affordable Housing Agreement, Australian governments have agreed to work together to ensure people have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing that contributes to social and economic participation.

One priority project identified under this National Framework is to improve support for foster, kinship and grandparent carers. In December 2010, Federal, State and Territory Community and Disability Services Ministers endorsed a set of national standards for out of home care, as part of the National Framework, which aim to ensure a consistent quality of care for all children and young people in OOHC across Australia.

Source: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/housing/progserv/affordability/affordablehousing/Pages/default.aspx

Educational attainment of parents

Parental educational attainment is likely to impact on both the educational attainment and health of children, but also parental employment and income, which will affect the financial security of families with children (Ewald & Boughton 2002).

The Australian Census of Population and Housing provides the best source of data on educational attainment of persons in NSW. The educational attainment of parents statistics are based on responses to the ABS standard question; ‘What is the highest year of primary or secondary school the person has completed? and the relationship status of family members.

It is important to note that a significant proportion of Census records did not record the educational attainment for mothers (8.7%) and fathers (6.5%) of dependent children. This data cannot be determined from the Census data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

In 2006, most mothers and fathers of dependent children in NSW had completed education to at least Year 12 or equivalent.

In NSW, 65.9 per cent of mothers and 77.5 per cent of fathers of dependent children aged 0–17 year olds had completed education to at least Year 12 or equivalent (Figure 3.6)(Table A3.22 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.25 (XLSX 290.5KB)). Parents of Aboriginal children were less likely than average to have completed Year 12 or equivalent education (37.7% of mothers; 48.2% of fathers) (Table A3.22 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.25 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.6: Educational attainment of parents of dependent children, NSW, 2006

Note: Percentages exclude those where information on parents’ educational attainment was unavailable.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.22 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.25 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The proportion of mothers and fathers who had completed Year 12 or equivalent education varied by geographic area. Areas with low proportions of parents who had completed Year 12 or equivalent were the Far West (44.3% of mothers; 55.1% of fathers) and North Western (56.0% of mothers; 63.2% of fathers) (Table A3.23 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.26 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Within Sydney, areas with low proportions of parents who had completed Year 12 or equivalent were Fairfield–Liverpool (56.1% of mothers; 66.9% of fathers) and Outer South Western Sydney (56.7% of mothers; 72.4% of fathers). Parents in Lower Northern Sydney (89.4% of mothers; 94.2% of fathers), Eastern Suburbs (88.3% of mothers; 93.2% of fathers) and Central Northern Sydney (85.4% of mothers; 93.1% of fathers) had the highest levels of attainment (Table A3.24 (XLSX 290.5KB) and Table A3.27 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Parental employment

Unemployment within families can impact on all family members (ARACY 2008). It can increase the likelihood of young people experiencing poverty and deprivation, with jobless families more likely to experience welfare dependency, low income and financial stress (AIHW 2009; ARACY 2008). Furthermore, jobless families often experience poorer physical and mental health than households where a family member is employed (Heady & Verick 2006). Family stress and conflict can also be high in jobless households (ARACY 2008; McClelland 2000; Shonkoff & Phillips 2000). Secure employment on the other hand promotes financial stability, self-confidence and social inclusion for parents, with positive knock-on effects for children (AIHW 2009).

The Australian Census of Population and Housing provides one source of data on parental employment in NSW. The parental employment statistic is based on responses to the ABS standard questions on employment and the relationship status of family members. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

In 2006, 82.7 per cent of dependent children lived in households where one or both parents were employed, 91.0 per cent of children in couple households had at least one parent in employment; while 48.0 per cent in single parent households had a parent in employment. Two per cent of dependent children had unemployed parents; 0.5 per cent of these were in couple households and 8.4 per cent in single parent households (Table A3.28 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.31 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

A higher proportion of dependent Aboriginal children lived in households where one or both parents were unemployed (6.1%) (Figure 3.7)(Table A3.28 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.7: Labour force status of parents of dependent children, NSW, 2006

Note: Percentages exclude those where information on parents’ employment status was unavailable.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.28 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

By area, the Mid-North Coast (3.8% of all dependent children; 0.9% of children in couple households; 11.4% of children in single parent households) and Far West (3.4% of all dependent children; 0.8% of children in couple households; 9.7% of children in single parent households) areas had a higher proportion of dependent children living in households where one or both parents were unemployed (Figure 3.8)(Table A3.29 (XLSX 290.5KB), Table A3.32 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.33 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.8: Dependent children living in unemployed households in Statistical Divisions, NSW, 2006

Notes: Dependent children living in unemployed households include couple households where both parents are unemployed and single-parent households where the parent is unemployed. Percentages exclude those where information on parental employment status was unavailable.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.29 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Within Sydney, areas with the highest proportion of dependent children living in unemployed households were Gosford–Wyong (2.7% of all children; 0.4% children in couple households; 10.0% children in single parent households), Outer South Western Sydney (2.4% all children; 0.5% in couple households; 9.1% in single parent households), Fairfield–Liverpool (2.4% all children; 1.0% in couple households; 8.2% in single parent households) and Blacktown (2.4% all children; 0.6% in couple households; 8.7% in single parent households) (Figure 3.9)(Table A3.30 (XLSX 290.5KB), Table A3.34 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.35 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.9: Dependent children living in unemployed households in Sydney Statistical Subdivisions, NSW, 2006

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Table A3.30 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

High levels of single parent unemployment and single parents not in the labour force may reflect a lack of flexible, well-paid work and suitable child care options for single parents (Duncan & Edwards 1999; Millar & Rowlingson 2001).

Healthy family functioning

Healthy family functioning is an important predictor of academic, behavioural and mental health outcomes. It can also promote positive relationships and build resilience that can help young people deal with adversity (Rowe, Bennett & Tonge 2009). Children living in families with low family functioning, for example, are at greater risk of mental health problems, suicide and substance abuse (Sawyer et al. 2000).

How a family functions may be influenced by a number of factors, including the quality of relationships, family health, employment and financial well-being (Centre for Epidemiology and Research 2010). Healthy family functioning has been identified as a key national indicator (AIHW 2010).

The NSW Population Health Survey is the most reliable source of information on the health of children in NSW, including healthy family functioning. It is important to note that any study using a survey approach is subject to error and it is important to consider these when interpreting the data. The limitations of this survey include non-sampling and sampling errors, and the calculation of ‘healthy’ family functioning and reporting by parents rather than the child concerned. More information on surveys generally and information specific to this survey can be found in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

The NSW Population Health Survey asks parents of children aged 0–15 years to respond to the 12 statements of the McMaster General Functioning Scale.[1] Unhealthy family functioning includes avoiding discussing concerns or fears, having lots of bad feelings within the family, not being able to turn to each other for support or to confide in each other, not being able to talk about sadness or express feelings to each other, difficulty in making decisions, not accepting family members as they are, and difficulty planning family activities (Byles, Byrne, Boyle & Offord 1988; Epstein, Baldwin & Bishop 1983).

In 2007–2008, 91.9 per cent of children aged 0–15 years lived in homes with healthy family functioning. There was no significant difference between the 0–4, 5–8 and 9–15 year age groups (Table A3.36 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Certain socioeconomic characteristics of a geographic area can be used to determine its socioeconomic disadvantage (ABS, 2006). Areas can be ranked and then grouped according to their socioeconomic disadvantage. The NSW Department of Health uses five groups. The least disadvantaged areas are in the first group and the most disadvantaged areas are in the fifth group. A significantly higher proportion of children in the first (97.8%) and fourth groups (96.4%), and a significantly lower proportion of children in the fifth group (82.5%) lived in homes with healthy family functioning, compared with the overall child population (Figure 3.10)(Table A3.37 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.10: Children aged 0–15 years living in homes with healthy family functioning by socioeconomic disadvantage, NSW, 2007–2008

Note: Estimates are based on 672 respondents in NSW.
Source: NSW Population Health Survey  2007–2008 (Table A3.37 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

NSW Department of Health reports a significant decrease in the proportion of children aged 0-15 years who lived in homes with healthy family functioning between 2003-2004 (94.8%) and 2007-2008 (91.9%) (Table A3.38 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Family activities

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) collects a range of information about children and their families, including children's academic ability, their health and emotional wellbeing, parenting, family functioning, early childhood care, and education and schooling. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data reports.

In 2008, parents of children aged 4–5 years and 8–9 years were asked: ‘In the past week, how many days have you or an adult in your family read to child from a book?’

A greater proportion of parents of children aged 4–5 years old said that they were read to by an adult on a regular basis (45.5%) compared with children aged 8–9 years (9.5%) (Figure 3.11)(Table A3.39 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Another source of data comes from the NSW Population Health Survey. The survey asks parents and carers of children 0–5 years of age: “Do you or other members of your family read or look at books with child? In a typical week how often do you or other members of your family read or look at books with child?”

In 2007–2008, the survey found that 70.6 per cent of parents or carers of children aged 0–5 years read to their child daily. One in five (23.1%) read to their child at least once a week, 0.6 per cent read to their child at least once a month, 0.2 per cent rarely read to their child, and 5.5 per cent reported never reading to their child (Table A3.40 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Certain socioeconomic characteristics of a geographic area can be used to determine its socioeconomic disadvantage (ABS, 2006). Areas can be ranked and then grouped according to their socioeconomic disadvantage. The NSW Department of Health uses five groups. The least disadvantaged areas are in the first group and the most disadvantaged areas are in the fifth group. A significantly higher proportion of parents or carers of children aged 0–5 years in the first group (75.9%), and a significantly lower proportion of parents or carers of children in the fifth group (63.5%), read to a child daily, compared with the overall parent or carer population (Table A3.41 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

The NSW Department of Health reports that there was no significant change in the proportion of parents or carers of children aged 0–5 years who read to their child daily between 2003–2004 and 2007–2008 (Centre for Epidemiology and Research 2010) (Table A3.42 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

In 2008, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children found that just over two-thirds of children aged 4–5 years and 8–9 years were involved in everyday activities such as cooking or caring for pets (Figure 3.11)(Table A3.43 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

Figure 3.11: NSW children who participate in family activities nearly every day, NSW, 2008

Source: LSAC 2008, Wave 3 data (Table A3.39 (XLSX 290.5KB) & Table A3.43 (XLSX 290.5KB)).

References

ABS 2006, Information Paper: An Introduction to Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Cat. No. 2039.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

AIHW 2007, Australia’s Welfare 2007, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.

AIHW 2009, A Picture of Australia's Children 2009, Cat. no. PHE 112, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.

AIHW 2010, Health and wellbeing of young Australians: indicator framework and key national indicators, Bulletin no. 77, Cat. no. AUS 123, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.

ARACY 2008, Report Card: the Wellbeing of Young Australians, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Melbourne.

Byles, J, Byrne, C, Boyle, M & Offord, D 1988, 'Ontario Child Health Study: reliability and validity of the general functioning subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device,' Family Process, vol. 27, pp. 97–104.

Centre for Epidemiology and Research 2010, 2007–2008 Report on Child Health from the New South Wales Population Health Survey, NSW Department of Health, Sydney.

Department of Human Services, Community Services 2010, Annual Statistical Report 2008/09, Information Management Branch, Planning and Corporate Performance Directorate, NSW Department of Human Services, Community Services, Sydney.

Duncan, S & Edwards, R 1999, Lone mothers, paid work and gendered moral rationalities, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Epstein, N, Baldwin, L & Bishop, D 1983, 'The McMaster Family Assessment Device', Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, vol. 9, pp. 171–180.

Ewald, D & Boughton, B 2002, Maternal education and child health: an exploratory investigation in a Central Australian Aboriginal community, The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health, Casuarina, Northern Territory.

Heady, B & Verick, S 2006, Jobless households: longitudinal analysis of the persistence and determinants of joblessness using HILDA data for 2001–03, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.

McClelland, A 2000, 'Effects of unemployment on the family', Economic and Labour Relations Review, vol. 11(2), pp. 198–212.

Millar, J & Rowlingson, K (eds) 2001, Lone parents, employment and social policy: cross-national comparisons, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Rowe, L, Bennett, DL & Tonge, BI 2009, I just want you to be happy: preventing and tackling teenage depression, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest.

Sawyer, M, Arney, F, Baghurst, P, Clark, JJ, Graetz, BW & Kosky, RJ. 2000, The mental health of young people in Australia, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, Canberra.

Shonkoff, JP & Phillips, DA 2000, From neurons to neighbourhoods: the science of early childhood development, National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Waters, A 2001, Do housing conditions impact on health inequalities between Australia's rich and poor? Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Melbourne.



[1] The McMaster Family Assessment Device is a 53-item tool with seven scales: problem solving, communication, roles, affective responsiveness, affective involvement, behaviour control and general functioning. The NSW Population Health Survey uses the General Functioning Scale, which consists of 12 statements with response categories of strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. The categories are given values of one to four; the sum of values is divided by 12 to give a total score ranging from 1.0 to 4.0. The higher the score, the poorer the family functioning. The cut-off point for families with healthy versus unhealthy functioning is a score of 2.17.