The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes - 2012 - Family and Changing Gender Roles

The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA) is Australia’s main source of data for the scientific study of the social attitudes, beliefs and opinions of Australians, how they change over time, and how they compare with other societies.

The survey is used to help researchers better understand how Australians think and feel about their lives. It produces important information about the changing views and attitudes of Australians as we move through the 21st century. Similar surveys are run in other countries, so data from AuSSA survey also allows us to compare Australia with countries all over the world.

AuSSA is also the Australian component of the International Social Survey Project (ISSP). The ISSP is a cross-national collaboration on surveys covering important topics. Each year, survey researchers in some 40 countries each do a national survey using the same questions. Here are some examples of surveys in other countries that are the equivalent to AuSSA:


The ISSP focuses on a special topic each year, repeating that topic from time to time. The topic for 2012 was "Family and Changing Gender Roles". This was the fourth time this has been the topic of the survey, having previously been the theme for the survey in 1988, 1994 and 2002.

A copy of the AuSSA 2012 questionnaire can be found at the Australian Data Archive site.

How were participants selected?

AuSSA aims to survey a representative sample of adult Australians. The fairest way of doing that is to draw a random sample from the Australian Electoral Roll. This means every Australian citizen has an equal chance of having their views included in the survey, and means that researchers are able to use statistical techniques to make inferences about Australian society overall on the basis of characteristics of the sample.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) supplies name and address information for the project in accordance with Item 3 of subsection 90B(4) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The information is provided to ACSPRI by the AEC on a confidential basis and is not used for any other purpose than to contact participants to invite them to participate in the survey. The name and address information cannot be linked to the survey data, and is not retained when the survey is finished.

In 2012, 5000 citizens were randomly selected from the electoral roll. 1620 of them returned a completed questionnaire.


​What questions were asked?

​Questions included:

  • ​Can a working mother establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work?
  • Is being a housewife just as fulfilling as working for pay?
  • ​Should both men and women contribute to the household income?
  • ​Are married people generally happier than unmarried people?
  • ​Is it all right for a couple to live together without intending to get married?
  • ​Can single parents, same sex couples bring up a child as well as a male-female couple?
  • ​Does having children increase poeple's social standing in society?
  • ​Should paid leave be available for parents? Who should pay for it? Which parents should take the paid leave?
  • ​What is the best way to organise family and work life? Should both parents work full time?
  • ​Who do you think should provide childcare? Who should cover the cost of childcare?
  • ​Who should assist elderly people? Who should cover the cost?
  • ​Which family member looks after the finances? Who does the housework? Do you do your fair share?
  • ​Who makes decisions about financial matters? About matters of how to bring up children?​

​Selected findings

For the question "A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work", 60% of male respondents agreed or strongly agreed, but 75% of female respondents agreed or strongly agreed.

Graph of the results from the question


​When asked "Who do you think should PRIMARILY cover the costs of childcare for children under school age?" - 69% of respondents chose "The family", 29% chose "The government" and small remainder chose "the employer".

Who do you think should primarily cover the costs of childcare for children under school age? - 69% said the family, 29% said the government, 2% said the employer

Access to further information and results from AuSSA 2012

A summary (codebook) of the results from the AuSSA 2012 is available to view in your web browser


AuSSA data is lodged in the public domain by its deposit in the Australian Data Archive (ADA) - AuSSA 2012 archive. The ADA provides online analysis tools for those with basic data analysis skills who wish to use AuSSA in their own research. In addition, the data file can be downloaded free of charge for your own further analysis.


For more information:

Tel. 1800 122 251 (free call)