[fam-uh-lee, fam-lee]
family, in taxonomy: see classification.
family, a basic unit of social structure, the exact definition of which can vary greatly from time to time and from culture to culture. How a society defines family as a primary group, and the functions it asks families to perform, are by no means constant. There has been much recent discussion of the nuclear family, which consists only of parents and children, but the nuclear family is by no means universal. In the United States, the percentage of households consisting of a nuclear family declined from 45% in 1960 to 23.5% in 2000. In preindustrial societies, the ties of kinship bind the individual both to the family of orientation, into which one is born, and to the family of procreation, which one founds at marriage and which often includes one's spouse's relatives. The nuclear family also may be extended through the acquisition of more than one spouse (polygamy and polygyny), or through the common residence of two or more married couples and their children or of several generations connected in the male or female line. This is called the extended family; it is widespread in many parts of the world, by no means exclusively in pastoral and agricultural economies. The primary functions of the family are reproductive, economic, social, and educational; it is through kin—itself variously defined—that the child first absorbs the culture of his group.

Evolution of the Western Family

The patriarchal family, which prevailed among the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, is often associated with polygamy (see marriage). In Rome, the paterfamilias was the only person recognized as an independent individual under the law. He possessed all religious rights as priest of the family ancestor cult, all economic rights as sole owner of the family property, and power of life and death over the members of the family. At his death, his name, property, and authority descended to his male heirs. The Roman system was transferred in many of its details into both the canon and secular law of Western Europe.

In the 19th cent., when the Western nations began to grant women equal rights with men with respect to the ownership of property (see husband and wife), the control of children (see parent and child), divorce, and the like, basic changes took place in the structure of the family, and the rights and protections associated with it. The state has also intervened to modify the authority of parents over their children. At the same time, education has shifted increasingly from the household to the school. The effect has been to loosen traditional family ties. In Western Europe, where legislation provides equal financial benefits and legal standing to all children, families have increasingly come to consist of one or two unwed parents and children, especially in Scandinavia and other part of N Europe.

Another factor affecting the modern Euro-American family was the Industrial Revolution, which removed from the home to the factory many economic tasks, such as baking, spinning, and weaving. Economic and social conditions have discouraged the presence of the husband and father in the home; in industrial communities the wife and mother also is often employed outside the home, leaving the children to be cared for by others. Sociologists and psychologists find in these changed relations of the members of the family to each other and of the family to the community at large the source of many problems such as divorce, mental illness, and juvenile delinquency.


See W. J. Goode, The Family (1964); R. H. Klemer, Marriage and Family Relationships (1970); P. Laslett, Household and Family in Past Time (1972); T. Hareven, Transitions: The Family and the Life Course in Historical Perspective (1978); J. Elshtain, The Family in Political Thought (1982).

Ovenbirds or furnariids comprise a large family of small suboscine passerine bird species found in Central and South America. They form the family Furnariidae. The North American Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) is an unrelated bird, a wood warbler in the family Parulidae.


The ovenbirds are a diverse group of insectivores which get their name from the elaborate vaguely "oven-like" clay nests built by the horneros, although most other ovenbirds build stick nests or nest in tunnels or clefts in rock. The Spanish word for "oven" gives the horneros their name. Furnariid nests are always constructed with a cover, and up to six pale blue, greenish or white eggs are laid. The eggs hatch after between 15 and 22 days, and the young fledge after a further 13 to 20 days.

They are small to medium sized birds, ranging from 9 to 35 centimetres in length. While individial species often are habitat specialists, species of this family can be found in virtually any Neotropical habitat, ranging from city parks inhabitted by Rufous Horneros, to tropical Amazonian lowlands by many species of Foliage-gleaners, to temperate barren Andean highlands inhabitted by several species of miners. There are even two species, the Seaside and the Surf Cinclodes, which are associated with rocky coasts.


Recently, the woodcreepers (formerly Dendrocolaptidae) were merged into this family, following analysis of mtDNA cytochrome b and several nDNA sequences (Irestedt et al. 2002).

The systematics of the Dendrocolaptinae were reviewed by Rajkow (1994) based on morphology and by Irestedt et al. (2004) based on analysis of more nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Using the latter approach, the suspected major lineages of the Furnariinae (foliage-gleaners, spinetails, and true ovenbirds) were confirmed, but some new lineages were discovered and the relationships of several genera had to be revised (Fjeldså et al., 2005).

The taxonomic arrangement presented below is based on a synthesis of current data (e.g. Cheviron et al., 2005). Many species or entire genera have not been sampled to analyze DNA sequences, and as the recent studies have discovered that convergent evolution is commonplace in the family, it seems not advisable to place them in the taxonomic sequence without further research. Several genera are in need of revision too.

Subfamily: Sclerurinae - Miners and leaftossers

Subfamily: Dendrocolaptinae - Woodcreepers''' For a complete listing of species, see the subfamily article.

Subfamily: Furnariinae - Horneros and allies

Affiliations undetermined

  • Genus Lochmias - Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper (Sclerurinae or "Margaronini"?)
  • Genus Heliobletus - Sharp-billed Treehunter (probably Xenopini)
  • Genus Pseudocolaptes - tuftedcheeks (3 species; possibly "Berlepschiini")
  • Genus Premnornis - Rusty-winged Barbtail ("Berlepschiini" or "Margaronini"?)
  • Genus Anabacerthia (3 species; probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Syndactyla (4 species; probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Simoxenops - recurvebills (2 species; probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Ancistrops - Chestnut-winged Hookbill (probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Hyloctistes - Striped Woodhaunter (probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Anabazenops (2 species; probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Cichlocolaptes - Pale-browed Treehunter (probably Philydorini)
  • Genus Hylocryptus (2 species; possibly Philydorini)
  • Genus Ochetorhynchus (2 species; probably Furnarini)
  • Genus Eremobius - Band-tailed Earthcreeper (probably Furnarini)
  • Genus Chilia - Crag Chilia (probably Furnarini)
  • Genus Clibanornis - Canebrake Groundcreeper (possibly Furnarini)
  • Genus Limnornis - Curve-billed Reedhaunter (possibly Synallaxini)
  • Genus Limnoctites - Straight-billed Reedhaunter (sometimes included in Limnornis, but closer to, and possibly better merged with, Cranioleuca; probably Synallaxini)
  • Genus Phleocryptes - Wren-like Rushbird
  • Genus Aphrastura - rayaditos (2 species, includes Limnoctites; possibly Synallaxini)
  • Genus Spartonoica - Bay-capped Wren-spinetail (possibly Synallaxini)
  • Genus Sylviorthorhynchus - Des Murs's Wiretail (possibly Synallaxini)
  • Thistletails (probably Synallaxini)
  • Genus Siptornis - Spectacled Prickletail
  • Genus Metopothrix - Orange-fronted Plushcrown
  • Genus Xenerpestes - graytails (2 species)
  • Genus Acrobatornis - Pink-legged Graveteiro
  • Genus Pseudoseisura - cacholotes (4 species)
  • Genus Pygarrhichas - White-throated Treerunner


  • Cheviron, Z. A.; Capparella, Angelo P.; Vuilleumier, François (2005): Molecular phylogenetic relationships among the Geositta miners (Furnariidae) and biogeographic implications for avian speciation in Fuego-Patagonia. Auk 122(1): 158–174. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0158:MPRATG]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract
  • Fjeldså, Jon; Irestedt, Martin & Ericson, Per G. P. (2005): Molecular data reveal some major adaptational shifts in the early evolution of the most diverse avian family, the Furnariidae. Journal of Ornithology 146: 1–13. [English with German abstract] (HTML abstract) PDF fulltext
  • Irestedt, Martin; Fjeldså, Jon; Johansson, Ulf S. & Ericson, Per G.P. (2002): Systematic relationships and biogeography of the tracheophone suboscines (Aves: Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 23(3): 499–512. (HTML abstract)
  • Irestedt, Martin; Fjeldså, Jon & Ericson, Per G. P. (2004): Phylogenetic relationships of woodcreepers (Aves: Dendrocolaptinae) - incongruence between molecular and morphological data. Journal of Avian Biology 35(3): 280-288. (HTML abstract)
  • Rajkow, Robert J. (1994): A phylogeny of the woodcreepers (Dendrocolaptinae). Auk 111(1): 104–114. PDF fulltext

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