For a time her family lived on a commune in rural Bentonville, Virginia. She has said they became poorer the longer they lived there and she believes that experience enlarged her empathy. Their father was an alcoholic, and their mother violently abusive. When Arquette was seven, the family relocated to Chicago. They later settled in Los Angeles, California. Arquette attended Catholic school, and has said that when she was a teenager, she had wanted to be a nun. At the age of fourteen, Arquette ran away from home after learning her father was having an affair—she settled with her sister, Rosanna Arquette, in Los Angeles. She has described her father as a working actor, describing the range of his experience–in industrial films, commercials, voiceovers, etc. He was best known for his role as J. D. Pickett in the TV series The Waltons. Before pursuing a career in acting, Arquette had wanted to be a midwife. She put this career prospect aside briefly in an attempt to gain acting jobs and gained success in the industry.