National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



This work summarises part of an investigation into the 2001 Census question ‘The Relationship Matrix’ (pages 4 and 5 of Scotland's Census April 2001 - Household Form H4 (Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format) (PDF 544 Kb) carried out by the author for an MSc thesis. It describes family trends and notes the potential effect of the Matrix on the data and the interpretation of such trends.

The Relationship Matrix data was obtained in the 2001 Census by asking that information be provided on the relationship of each person in the household to others in the same household. For households with up to 5 people in them, information was required on their relationship with the remaining people in the household. For example, in a 5 person household, for person 3 on the form, information was needed on their relationship with persons 1, 2, 4 and 5. Where a household contained 6 or more people, the same information was still required for the first 5 people in the household. For the remaining household residents (persons 6 and above), information was needed on their relationship with person 1 and with the two people given just before them on the form. For example, person 6 was required to give their relationship with persons 4 and 5 as well as person 1.

The Relationship Matrix data collected in 2001 was significantly more detailed than the information collected in the 1991 Census, where each person was only required to say what their relationship was to the first person on the Census form (person 1).

The 2001 Relationship Matrix evaluation data is complex so the evaluation is quite complicated and this paper is just one part. It provides a social context for an Occasional Paper on the statistical evaluation of the success of the relationship matrix. Two published papers have already provided summary evaluations of the matrix (Máté 1993 and Máté and Miller 2003).

Over the last 30 years there have been many changes in Scotland’s households. The traditional family household - a couple with a child or children - is less common now, while there has been an increase in one person and lone parent households. Concomitantly, there has been a significant decrease in the average household size and a corresponding increase in the total number of households over the last 30 years. These trends are expected to continue. The Scottish Executive (2006) projects an average household size of only 1.97 by 2024 - compared to 4.82 in 1901.

These trends have also been observed across the rest of the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe to varying degrees, in what has been termed the 'pluralisation of households' (Coleman and Salt 1992). Classifying households has become increasingly complex. Many developments in social policy rely on baseline information from the Census. With devolution and the rate and direction of demographic change in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, there is increasing interest in and reliance on the accuracy of Census information on families and households, and to distinguish Scotland’s household patterns and trends from those of England and Wales.

This paper, in the form of a literature review of work over the last 30 years with statistical data, describes how Scotland’s households have changed over time and compares Scotland to the rest of the UK and Europe.

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