FAMILIES OF ELEMENTS
The term "family" is used to describe elements that share certain characteristics—not only in terms of observable behavior, but also with regard to atomic structure. All noble gases, for instance, tend to be highly nonreactive: only a few of them combine with other elements, and then only with fluorine, the most reactive of all substances. Fluorine is a member of another family, the halogens, which have so many shared characteristics that they are grouped together, despite the fact that two are gases, two are solids, and one—bromine—is one of only two elements that appears at room temperature as a solid. Despite these apparent differences, common electron configurations identify the halogens as a family. Families on the periodic table include, in addition to noble gases and halogens, the alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, lanthanides, and actinides. The nonmetals form a loosely defined cross-family grouping, as do the metalloids.