Sam Shepard and the dysfunctional American family: Therapeutic perspectives

L. F. Sparr, S. S. Erstling, J. K. Boehnlein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A series of family dramas by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American play-wright Sam Shepard provides a shocking look at the breakdown of the family as central organizing unit. Using Curse of the Starving Class as a model, this article examines family processes in the play and the biographical roots of Shepard's interest in dysfunctional families. Shepard's exploration of differentiation, boundaries, marital disintegration and parental ineffectiveness, isolation, family goals and purpose, and intergenerational legacies is a helpful reminder for therapists who focus primarily on technique and/or internal family dynamics to consider community ties and the significance of family rituals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-576
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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