Two parents, two households
New Zealand data collections, language and complex parenting
This paper explores the issues surrounding data collection and the diversity of family types, with particular emphasis on family connections across households.
Most of the official statistics in New Zealand and overseas rely on data collected on an individual or household basis. Hence we commonly see such terms as ‘sole parent family’ and ‘absent parent’. There is commonly an implicit assumption that individuals are part of one household only, and that all their family members live in that same household.
This does not reflect the reality of life for many people, and yet the data shape the perspectives chosen and the analyses undertaken. The associated terminology emphasises some relationships, while ignoring others. Similarly, there are inaccuracies in the perceived availability of, and demands on, resources for the various identified groups of people. It is through this distorted lens that much of our perception of society is formed.
This raises two main issues. Firstly, what research can we do with current data, and what are the inherent problems that can constrain us in drawing conclusions? Secondly, can we improve the quality
of data collected so as to avoid these problems?
The results are important for data-gathering and future research, as well as for the revisiting of past research to consider whether conclusions drawn are robust, or were due to weaknesses in the data