Golden Child

The narcissistic parent(s) have one or more favourites in their family unit and these are called the golden child(ren).  This child can do no wrong will be highly protected and cossetted and decidedly more cherished and praised than the other off spring.  They will always receive the bulk of the resources within the family, such as food, attention/affection, respect/privileges and often the vast bulk of any inheritance.  The golden child will be protected so long as they do exactly as the narcissist parent wants (these wants will very often not be vocalised, so the golden child will be constantly on high alert looking for subtle cues that will alert them to what they “should be doing”).  The constant threat of demotion, makes that child hyper vigilant of the activities of his siblings and will often act as a go between for the parents needs to ensure that every member of the family is putting the parents needs before their own.  This is called trauma bonding, the golden child can see how the other siblings are treated and will do anything s/he is asked (told) to do to maintain their privileged status.

The parent will also insist that all other members of the family take care of the golden child’s needs and do nothing to upset them.  This could be anything from getting into an argument or out-shining them in any way (at school/sport/career/seeming to be more popular etc.).

The way the golden child pays the narcissist parent back (as a narcissist never does anything that does not have a personal gain) is to protect the parent’s reputation at all times.  Totally discrediting any criticism that might be levelled at her/him and will attack any sibling that might have the audacity to voice some negative feeling towards them.  The parent will encourage this hostility between the siblings because it makes them easier to control and means that they will not gang up on them.

The golden child will have inherited privilege and attention, but they know that they have not earned it.  Often it is because they are simply the first male child in the family who has shown no special talents but they have been elevated into a position of privilege because of their gender.  This makes the golden child extremely defensive and aggressive about protecting his/her realm.  At the same time, they have an external veneer of entitlement but their behaviour belies their confidence.  If challenged for example they can be reduced to tears, have a temper tantrum or storm off.

Being a golden child often makes the cossetted child morally corrupt as they think that everything is their birth right, they are quite capable of stealing, fraud and infidelity.  The parent who favours the golden child  will continue to protect them with a completely exaggerated ferocity right into adulthood and probably until the day that they die.


The wounds that are inflicted through a narcissistic family dynamic

Many people who have grown up in a narcissistic family fully understand how the core wounds that are inflicted manifest themselves.  Many more don’t because the child is confused by the fact that someone who claims to “love” them wants to hurt them and as such they grow up with the message that “love hurts”.


The main wounds that are “passed on” are as a result of never being able to champion, celebrate or praise their child, unless that child is a Golden Child, in which case they will be applauded for the slightest achievement.  This in turn will result in very low self-esteem and self-confidence (in the children who have been neglected) on the one hand and a ridiculous sense of entitlement and grandiosity on the other from being over cossetted and praised).

There are some wounds that apply to both children who have been scapegoated and golden children and those are:


  • Comparison to others, a scapegoat you will feel that they are not good enough and no matter how hard they try it will not be appreciated. The golden child will be praised for everything and will have a sense of superiority to just about everyone on the surface, however, inside their self-esteem is low and is merely protected by this false persona.
  • You will only be loved on the condition that you comply with the parent’s “needs”, this applies to both types of child rearing, since love and affection are the mainstay of healthy parenting, the child will do anything to get these very limited resources and they will always compete against each other to attain them.
  • Shaming children so that they constantly feel that there is something wrong with them and that they MUST try harder.
  • Infantilising so that their children are never really “allowed” to grow up. They want their children to look to them for guidance at all times, this way they have more control and attention.  Suppression of the child’s development also means that they will never outshine or take the lime light off the parent, it also keeps the child immature so the narcissist can relate to the child more.
  • Feeling guilty for wanting more from you parents and “taking them for granted”. Guilt is a big part of the narcissistic family dynamic.  The will guilt trip you for not being good enough (at school, doing the house work, or as good as other children), they will guilt trip for being too good (showing up the golden child, or drawing attention to yourself) and they will guilt trip you for wanting stuff, “you have a roof over your head, food on the table just think of the poor Syrian refugee children, you are so ungrateful for all of the sacrifices that I have made for you”.

The effects of this sort of “parenting” style on a child are many and all negative.

  • Low self-esteem, lack of self confidence
  • Fearful of doing anything that might draw attention to yourself.
  • Tolerating shoddy treatment from others
  • Physical ailments due to stress and anxiety such as panic attacks, chest pains and depression etc.
  • Feeling responsible for making things “better” for others, minding adults
  • Adopting behaviours that sabotage yourself when you are doing well or feeling happy
  • Feeling guilty when you are enjoying life
  • Addictions in their various forms such as drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling etc.

When a child does stand up for themselves the narcissistic parent can feel rejected (as the child is not following their “guidance/script”) and this can manifest itself with rage, counter rejection, sadness or an exhibition of extreme weakness and vulnerability so that the child feels like s/he has to protect their parent.  The consequence of this behaviour is that the child might feel pressured to shrink back into a supporting role for the parent and abandon realising their own potential.  Many parents will project the pain that they carried from their own childhood on to their children and will use phrases such as

“the sacrifices I have made for you”

“if it wasn’t for you I would be…”

“you are so ungrateful”

“I had to do … because of you”

“you were/are a mistake”

“I spend my whole life doing things for you”

Our culture will say:

“you are duty bound to your parents”

“your family is everything”

“you owe your mother loyalty and affection”

“there is no love like a mother’s love”

The message to the mother is that “if you don’t love being a mother and love your children there is something very wrong with you”  (no narcissist would ever admit to not loving being a mother, so it has to be the fault of their ungrateful children).

When you acknowledge and heal the damage that your family of origin has exposed you to, you will be clearing a way for healthier and happier relationships, both with yourself and with others.




The opposite to the golden child is the scapegoat.  Scapegoating is a serious dysfunctional family problem.  It is when one (or sometimes more) members of a family are picked out to be blamed for everything wrong that happens in a family, even if they had nothing to do with the event, this is called projection.  The narcissistic parents will completely violate the boundaries of this child and project everything “bad” that happens in the family on to him/her and force them take on the blame for collective family problems (even though the scapegoat in the family might only be 3 or 4 years old).  They will force other members of the family of origin to do the same thing to ensure that the scapegoat does not find any support from any other member of the family.

There are different reasons that one child is singled out, they might be too independent and noncompliant, the child might be too different from the parent, they might be sensitive and emotional, remind them of a relation they did not like or they might just be weak or vulnerable for some reason and therefore easy to bully.  Children of narcissistic parents are often very angry with their parents simply because they are not doing their job as protector, carer and provider, but at the same time are extremely interfering and controlling.  This generates a lot of anger and resentment and since children of narcissistic parents know that there is no point in getting angry with their parents, that anger has to be deflected/projected onto someone else.  It is classic bullying, “I am hurting, I cannot hurt the person who is hurting me, so I will attack this small vulnerable person instead and that will temporarily make me feel better, more in control”.

The narcissistic parents of a dysfunctional family will actively encourage the other children in the family to redirect the anger that that is held for them onto the scapegoat child.  The parents will lead by example by taunting and hurting the scapegoat child.  This is called mobbing or flying monkeys.  All members of the family are affected, the scapegoat will learn that they are at the bottom of the pile and are a dumping ground for all.  The dynamic of a “good” child and a “bad” one can continue into adulthood.  Aggression, the use of force against another human being is always present in scapegoating it can be through rudeness, humiliation, rage or constant negative feedback.  The target of scapegoating feels wrongly persecuted and disempowered because whatever they do they are always wrong.  If they are good they are bad and if they are bad they are bad too and even if they are paralysed with fear of doing something wrong – they are still wrong.

These roles have been assigned by the parent(s) and have little or nothing to do with the individual themselves.   The scapegoat is probably selected because they are the easiest to bully and manipulate.  It is not their fault, they didn’t do anything wrong, but they are raised thinking that they just stumble from one self-made atrocity to the next, without ever knowing what they have done wrong.

If one of the siblings feels inclined to stand up for the scapegoat, the family will swing in and let that child know that it is not acceptable behaviour to support the scapegoat and will threaten punishment for offering support as that would destroy the structure or the dynamic of the family that the parent or now collective “family” has deemed “acceptable or correct”, so the system is self-policing.

Any external defence of the scapegoat will probably bring more punishment on to the scapegoat as the parent will see that the scapegoat has done something to make her/him look bad in public and that is a punishable offense.  The scapegoat child was more than likely just being a child but the parent(s) will project their “adult” malevolence onto the child and punishment will inevitably ensue.

The whole sick dynamic is really a form of emotional incest or rape.  The scapegoat child will be blamed and held accountable for the parent(s) emotional well-being and will also be denied a childhood.

A narcissistic parent will NEVER support the scapegoat child.  It will not matter what happens, whatever the evidence of having been mistreated, the narcissistic parent will always take the side of the other person.  S/he will say things like “you must have done something to deserve it”, “how can you be so selfish, you have hurt that person’s feelings” (if you defend yourself), “well of course they ripped you off, you look like an idiot”.

So how can you tell if you are a scapegoat?

  • You are held responsible for family problems that you have nothing to do with.
  • If you defend yourself, you are disbelieved or incur rage from the family unit in one shape or another.
  • Some family members are actively encouraged to be verbally, emotionally or physically abusive to you, while the other members of the family do nothing to defend/support you.
  • There is constant projection, a family member shouts abuse at you and then you are accused of being hurtful.
  • You are afraid of being “successful” as you know that it will incur the collective wrath of the family, so you deliberately under achieve. To succeed at something is a source of toxic shame.
  • Constantly being accused of being the sick, bad, addicted member of the family.
  • Being treated with distain or hostility by your family, being excluded from family communications only being told what is going on when they want something from you.
  • Any achievement will be belittled, ridiculed and rejected (sometimes punished).

So how do you survive this craziness?   Scapegoats often have huge issues around trust and feeling safe in relationships so are susceptible to flight, fight or fawn.  This all comes from childhood trauma.

So how can the scapegoat break the spell?

  • You need to know where you have come from and distinguish what you were told to believe, rather than what you do believe.
  • Get back in touch with yourself, there is an indestructible core inside of you all of the time, re-connect with that person. S/he might be as young as 4 or 5, this person is referred to as “your inner child” in the literature. This young person is very precious and has been subjected to a lot of abuse If you come from a narcissistic family, recognise the fact that you could be taking on generations of neglect/abuse etc.  Don’t let your family use you as their dumping ground.
  • Get back in touch with who you were when you were little, that is the true you.
  • Don’t try to appease the scapegoat family, collectively or individually, it is in none of their interests to let you move out of the role that they have given you – so don’t try, it is not worth it, it will only trigger more pain.
  • Don’t ever expect abusive family members to be anything other than abusive family members. Once an abusive family member always an abusive family member.


  • The word is “no”, don’t say yes to everything that they “ask” you to do.
  • If someone treats you badly within your family, call them out on it.
  • Don’t treat your interaction with your family as a means to an end.
  • Take into consideration what your family have told you about yourself in your role as scapegoat, acknowledge the fact that what they have told you is projection of their own pain and problems.
  • Trust your instincts, listen to that little voice that says “this is not fair” and let them know that you are no longer prepared to take on their abuse.
  • You have been the family punch bag and the bad feelings and opinion that you have about yourself are not “real”,
  • Write down what you know to be true about yourself without looking for validation from outside of yourself.
  • Don’t try to look for the validation of your abusive an uncaring family, friends and co-workers
  • Don’t look for apologies, they will still blame you
  • Call people out when they are disrespectful and point back
  • Accept that you will never have a healthy relationship with people who treated you as a scapegoat
  • Treat yourself with kindness care and compassion
  • It will take time to learn how to take care of yourself, but it is do-able and well worth the effort

Narcissists will set you up to fail, they can do things like give you something and then publically accuse you of stealing it, tell you someone’s secret and say that everyone knows about it, so that when you mention it to someone else it makes you look like a malicious gossip etc.  They do this because nothing is ever their fault but they know that they cannot randomly blame everyone as that would lose them favour, so they carefully select someone(s) to take the blame for whatever they do and will work diligently through lies a deceit to make sure that everyone believes them.  The scapegoat in a lot of cases isn’t aware of stuff that has been attributed to them but notices that certain people treat them with hostility.

A few precautions:

  • Don’t be alone with a narcissist if you can avoid it, they won’t abuse you if there are other people around, if you are in company and they ask you to leave the room with them, make your excuses.
  • Don’t accept presents or stuff from them (if a narcissist gives you something they consider it a purchase)
  • Don’t believe anything that they say (until you have had validation from another source)
  • Be aware that you are probably being manipulated at all times
  • Don’t look for appreciation or gratitude because you won’t get it (unless it is in a public setting but it will never be sincere)

Family System


A narcissistic family is a bit like being brought up in a war zone.  The narcissistic parent(s) have all of the power and money and because the children are hostage to them they have to obey the power source.   The parents send their children off to fight amongst each other with a hefty propaganda backing themselves up and perpetually whispering in their ears about suspicion, mistrust and questionable motivation about the behaviour/weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the others.

From a very young age the narcissist parent(s) will indoctrinate their children that collaboration amongst themselves is “bad behaviour” and therefore punishable.  All communication must go through HQ (triangulation), in this way all information can be censored and edited according to the needs of the parent(s).  As a child of a narcissistic family you are never really sure what your siblings are saying about you, so there is a constant air of suspicion, mistrust and secrecy.  It feels like your life is being spied on and that you could easily be double crossed.  The narcissistic parent will reward telling tales with praise, a treat or with that rare commodity of a narcissistic parent attention and even superficial affection.

If you do not conform, you will be labelled a rebel or traitor and will have to keep a very low profile to avoid narcissistic rage.  Your privileges will be far less than those of the siblings that collude with the parent(s).  If you try to move out of your hiding place in the hills, the other siblings will attack to keep you there, they will be determined to keep you in isolation in case you try to “steal” the privileges that have been bestowed upon them.  The family unit works as a system and if a scapegoat tries to move out of their role, it would leave it open for another member of the family and none of them want that, they are openly shown what happens if you do not comply to the whims of the parent(s).   So the family unit works like a laser treatment (attacking from all sides) to keep the scapegoat in his or her place.  The narcissistic parent(s) also have a vested interest in keeping their children in their allocated roles because they have trained them into their “job description” and it would take effort and energy to get another off spring to fulfil this “vocation”..

Essentially if you have grown up in a narcissistic family, danger management feels a lot more comfortable than peace.  A narcissistic parent will attack if s/he sees their off spring playing and chatting happily together.  They (the parent) didn’t receive any love and they do not like to see their children enjoy each other’s company.  Since they think that everything that happens is about them, their level of paranoia is very high if they are not the focus of attention.  If their children are getting on and playing/chatting happily together the narcissist sees it in two ways a) they are plotting and planning against the narcissist, b) if the children get on they could gang together and it will be much harder for the narcissist to control.  So it gives them pleasure (and a sense of relief) to see the tears well up in the eyes of their children when they pitch their children against each other, break up a fun game and shout abuse, because they have destroyed the comradery and put them back under control.  A narcissistic parent will see their children playing happily together as the withholding of narcissistic supply and as something that is being done to deliberately frustrate/exclude them from being the centre of attention and therefore a deliberate injury and a form of disobedience.

It looks like

  • You are sent out into the battle field to fight each other, with only the half-truth and lies that HQ has supplied to create the maximum disharmony amongst their off spring.
  • We are being spied on by those who you live with and all “information” that has been garnered about you will be relayed to HQ with the sibling’s own twist on their tale telling that serves their purpose the best.
  • If you request that your sibling does not inform HQ, it is a good way to make sure that they do it immediately
  • There will be a self-policing system within the family that always reports to HQ and strictly adheres to the designated roles in the family (golden child, scapegoat, lost child)
  • Children who do not mindlessly agree with HQ (rebels) are pushed out to the periphery, punished or ignored
  • The identity of the individuals within the family unit is denied as it is not in the interest of HQ. You will hear things like “We like/don’t like..”, “We always/never”,
  • Total indifference to the consequences that this sort of harmful chaos creates to the mental well-being of the individual. You are only programmed to think about the well-being of HQ
  • Any dissidence will invite a harder attack.
  • Any questioning, confusion or doubt about the “system” will be strongly reprimanded by the “system” and by HQ
  • No open negotiation, orders are barked, obedience demanded
  • Will put child’s life in physical danger for personal gain if necessary for HQ.


The dynamics of a dysfunctional family


All dysfunctional families have one or two disturbed parent(s) who “run the show”, this can be one parent or a power struggle between the parents (including step parents), each jostling to take control and therefore escalating the level of psychosis within the family unit.

The struggle for power happens between parents in the same way that it does whenever a narcissist is trying to dominate by

  • Name calling
  • Lying
  • Triangulation
  • Verbal abuse
  • Lack of respect for boundaries
  • Invalidation of emotions
  • Neglect

These parents between them will allocate specific roles for each child within the family.  So, a daughter might be “daddy’s girl” and as a result despised and envied by her mother, the mother’s golden male child might be the father’s scapegoat and so forth.  Each role is accepted and reinforced by each and every member of the family.  The most destructive role given within any dysfunctional family is that of the scapegoat (and there can be two scapegoats with in the same family) one for each parent.  The scapegoat is seen as not really being part of the core family, but rather someone who is forced to take on all of the pain and anger within the family and narcissists are very good at redirecting anger, especially to the more vulnerable and sensitive children.

The siblings that have been selected as part of the core family will openly be given permission to treat the scapegoat child(ren) any way that they want.  This includes merciless bullying, stealing or destroying possessions, sneering, name calling and in general being physically and emotionally violent.  In fact, the parents can often actively encourage bullying because:

  • It means that they can divide and conquer their children if they are living in fear.
  • They feed off others emotions even if it is negative.
  • The bullied child will deal with the immediate dangers of being bullied rather than look at the dysfunction of the family unit
  • A bullied and scared child is much easier to control than a confident secure one.

Offspring of narcissistic parents are not valued\validated or respected by their parents, so they are delighted to have children who they can bully, control and feel empowered by the role that being a parent offers.

If you come from a dysfunctional family it can literally take years to realise that the way you were treated was abusive and the only reason it felt normal was because they were all behaving in the same way – it couldn’t possibly be that they are all wrong and that you are right, could it? The scapegoat gets the most overt abuse, but everyone in a dysfunctional family is abused.

Over time and as the children get older the behaviour changes, although the underlying dynamic remains the same.  “Accepted” children will stop pulling your hair and breaking your toys but will generally move towards verbal, emotional and even financial abuse (if they can get away with it).  Verbal abuse will be reinforced/supported by the parents to ensure that that child does not move out of their designated role.  By the time that the children reach adulthood their behaviours and habits have been so well policed and practiced they will feel absolutely normal. It will feel absolutely normal to disrespect others, sneer or attack their reputation.  Not just within the family unit, but of anyone who feels like the slightest threat.  Similarly, it will feel absolutely “normal” to move into abusive adult relationships where the disrespect continues.  Children from dysfunctional families will have very poor boundaries and therefore it is difficult to know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

Over and over again the child will be told who “we” are and who they are.  So “we” do not like certain types of people or things, “we” dismiss anyone who does not comply with “our” family narrative.  So much so, that the child/adult child completely loses sight of who they are and what they want in life.  Paradoxically, this is especially true of the children who have been designated more privileged roles.  They see themselves as superior, more than a little special and definitely entitled.  As a result of this they identify very strongly with the projected image of the family rather than develop their own identity, this can leave them floundering whenever they are outside their comfort zone, whenever they are in a situation where they have to compete as they feel that they should be given what they want just by showing up.   Very few privileged people see privilege as a gift, they see it as their right, they are constantly conditioned to think that all that they have been given is their due.  This can cause them to behave in a heartless way such as sending their once over indulgent but now aging parents to nursing homes because they are in the way/annoying or too much trouble/physically unattractive.

Dysfunctional families will often recommend that one member should go into therapy (because they are unstable and crazy) and then immediately discredit the therapist as an idiot if they say something that the family doesn’t like.  The child that the family recommend go to therapy is often the one who needs it least.  Any child who even vaguely attempts to criticise the family’s perfect image, will be met with aggression and utter contempt and an attempt (or several attempts) will be made to discredit the alternative to the family narrative and to pull the wayward family member “back into line”.

The process of recognising such family dysfunction is slow arduous and painful, most of us shy away from it for years because the reality of the situation is too painful and because we have been trained since infancy to protect the reputation of our family image at all cost.

All of the accepted family members will happily isolate, keep secrets from, belittle, sneer at and ostracise the ones who they deem “not to be one of us”, the dysfunctional parent will actively encourage this demonization so that the remaining family members will know what will happen to them if they dare to step out of line and therefore will enforce the absolute authority of the parent(s).  This treatment of the ostracised family member will continue even after the child has become an adult.  They will be blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family, be subjected to relentless smear campaigns to the extent that that family member will feel like they are the crazy one.  It is like a laser treatment it can have as many channels of attack as there are family members and includes members of the extended family too.

The family members who wake up to the dysfunctional dynamic of their family will often have to work for years to gain self-esteem and confidence as they have been brain washed into thinking that they are worthless.  Brainwashing does not have to be clever it is simply the constant repetition of the same message by someone you thought that you could trust.  Your parents/family.  The general overall message is “you are worthless I need you”, “I have all the power, but you must take all the responsibility” (even though you are a very young child).