Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margit Grieb, Ph.D.


Father Figure, Insular Sphere, Intergenerational Relationships, Mother, Single-Parent Household


In the 1980s the cinematic nuclear family flourished again after the self-explorative 1960s and turbulent 1970s. This thesis explores the portrayal of the idealized American family in film between the 1950s and 1980s. The 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause reflects the 1950s cinematic family model. My investigation includes the role of the father figure and the bonds in intergenerational relationships. During the early 1980s, films such Ordinary People and ET: The Extraterrestrial reflect the need to reevaluate the 1950s ideal nuclear family. My examination of these films continues to include the importance of the father figure and bonds between child and parents along with contemporary elements such as the use of psychiatry and rise of single-parent households. These movies' redefined portrayals of the idealized nuclear family represent the shifting dynamics of modern society in terms of single-parent households and highlighted importance of intergenerational relationships.