Connie's family seems "normal" in the most conventional sense: a nuclear family with a stay-at-home mom and a working dad, children, and family barbecues on Sundays. But it's precisely this ordinariness that makes Oates's treatment of family life so disturbing. Most of the attention is drawn to the women of the family, whose relationships are fractured by a society that sees them as little more than sexual, marriageable, domestic objects. Without any more affirmative notion of femininity, the women – sisters and mother – are at odds with one another: they are rivals or enemies, but they can't seem to be friends. The absence of the father also eliminates the possibility for the daughters to develop a meaningful relationship with an important male figure.
Connie's fraught relationships with her mother and sister are all the more tragic because they are a lost opportunity for female friendship.
The weak presence of Connie's father in her life makes her even more susceptible to the manipulations of someone like Arnold Friend.