‘Family scapegoating is a hostile discrediting routine by which the scapegoating family members’ remove blame and responsibility from themselves for problems within the family unit, and dump all of the responsibility onto a targeted family member. The practice of scapegoating allows for feelings of anger and hostility to be projected onto the family scapegoat through continued inappropriate accusations. The scapegoated adult child of a narcissistic parent feels wrongly persecuted after receiving misplaced vilification, blame, criticism, and rejection from the member’s of the family whom the narcissistic parent seeks to influence. Scapegoating allows for the self-righteous discharge of one’s aggression onto another more vulnerable source.’
Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem where one member of the family is picked apart for small things, that most non-judgemental healthy families’ wouldn’t view as abnormal, or problematic. Scapegoating begins in childhood. Small things that the targeted child does are exaggerated, talked about among family, and are considered the actions of a child with a behavioural problem.
Scapegoating typically occurs in families’ where there is a narcissistic parent. Narcissistic parents’ typically have a golden child and a scapegoat. The golden child can no wrong, and the scapegoat can do no right. The golden child is all good, and the scapegoat is all bad. All of the children are encouraged to goad, bait, and peck at the one. In a family such as this, somebody always has to be the bad guy.
Why is the scapegoat chosen?
Scapegoats are not chosen by accident. They are usually the more sensitive child, highly empathetic, can’t stand abusive behaviour, and have a penchant for the truth. These character traits bring to the narcissist’s attention that the child, come adulthood, could blab. Deeming the scapegoat bad in some way is the families’ way of discrediting the scapegoat, and denying the problems in the family by projecting onto the child the behaviours of the perpetrators’ – therefore, deeming them the main troublemaker in the family.
The scapegoat is to blame for everything
The scapegoated child is typically blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family unit. The narcissistic parent blames this child for the problems the scapegoat has with the other children in the family unit. In the mind of the narcissistic parent, the scapegoated child is at fault for the other children’s verbal and physical aggression towards them. Regardless of whether or not the other children are provoking the scapegoat, attacking the scapegoat, are caught out lying about the scapegoat, or excluding the scapegoat; these children will never be held accountable for their actions. Instead, the scapegoat will be blamed for the horrendous behaviour of the other children. This dynamic often plays out between the golden child and the scapegoat. In the mind of the narcissist, the golden child is never at fault for their poor behaviour. Instead, this child is grandiose and entitled to do as they please, just like the narcissist.
This dynamic doesn’t stop in childhood and often persists well into adulthood – up until the scapegoat either puts up big boundaries or goes No Contact.
The scapegoat’s view of themselves
This pattern of blaming and shaming the scapegoat for every issue within the family unit sets them up to be overly self-critical, to shame themselves constantly, and to believe they are always at fault in every conflict. Once an adult, the family scapegoat often has difficulty asserting themselves, does not believe in their right to stand up for themselves, or to the notion that they not defective, unworthy, or lovable. They often walk out of the family in adulthood only to be scapegoated again by an abusive partner, or abusive friends.
Subconsciously, the narcissist believes that if the entire family is unhappy with the scapegoat, then it releases the family from any blame, and deflects from the real issues within the family. The scapegoaters view the mistreatment of the scapegoat from a distorted mindset. They honestly believe that onlookers will realise that the scapegoat is to blame for the family’s decision to exclude this person.
Characteristics of a scapegoater
Typically, family members’ who scapegoat are very punitive in their beliefs, are extremely judgmental of others, and fall victim to the manipulations of the narcissist, primarily because of this deeply ingrained punitive, judgemental way of behaving and thinking.
How does the family scapegoat the victim?
Scapegoating is the practice of pathological lying. The scapegoater poisons the minds of other family members by slandering the family scapegoat, claiming they have said and done things they haven’t, by triangulating the adult children against the scapegoat, and blaming them for everything that goes on within the family. In adulthood, the adult children already view the scapegoat as fundamentally floored, because of the narcissistic parent’s continued slander, and accusations directed against the child for things they didn’t do. The adult children have been brainwashed into taking on the narcissist’s perception of the child; which of course, is untrue.
This works in the narcissist’s favour. When a scene occurs, the scapegoat is made to take the blame for whatever has happened, even if they are completely innocent, and it was another family member who was actually the real culprit. The scapegoats family always makes this adult – child the bad guy and lies about how things really went down. Horrendous behaviour from the other family members is shoved under the carpet, and the scapegoat is left wondering why they were just blamed for the attack upon them, which just occurred.
Repeated scenarios such as the one above often lead to the scapegoat being deemed as volatile, unhinged, crazy, and a troublemaker. These same scenarios often lead to the scapegoat being excluded from important family events, being talked about, laughed at, ridiculed, and denigrated to disgusting degrees. The scapegoat victim can usually feel the discontent, and anger from their family members during the scapegoating process.
They know they have been ostracised from family functions, and have a fair idea they are being denigrated behind their backs. What they don’t know though, is the degree of the slander, or ridicule.
Scapegoaters’ are often disappointed when they find that the same problems within the family still exist long after the scapegoat has left.
From first hand experience at being a middle child, I honestly can tell you that middle child syndrome is very real. To what extreme is completely reliant on family dynamics, family function, or dysfunction.
It is claimed by researchers and child psychologists that birth order has a profound effect on how children develop psychologically as they grow into adults.
Alfred Adler, theorist, and middle child himself argued that birth order can leave a major impression on an individual’s lifestyle in relation to how they behave in friendships, work situations, and intimate relationships.
Alfred Adler believed that the second child within a family where there are three children may feel squeezed out of a position of privilege.
This child feels as though they don’t belong. They fight with their siblings for attention from the parents’ because they feel ignored – which leads to feelings of insecurity. This insecurity will most likely affect their relationships for a life time.
Middle child syndrome: How does it happen?
The first child is given the best deal out of all of the siblings. They reign supreme, and are the centre of the parents’ attention, and supply of love, until of course the second child comes along. The oldest sibling is the only child to ever have the opportunity (even if it is only for a short time) to bask in both of their parents’ attention, without their other siblings constantly interrupting.
By the time the second child comes along the oldest sibling is well and truly the boss, and the only child his or her parents’ already have a secure bond with. This bond with the parents’ provides the oldest child with the opportunity to use their dominance, age, and fluency to maintain and strengthen their union with the parents’, while the middle child is unintentionally left at a loss.
Through no fault of the parents’, middle children lose what is meant to be a time in their life where they are doted on and adored without interruption, to their older sibling, who is more equiped than their younger sibling to secure a strong relationship with their parents.
It often becomes a case of:
‘Well I was here first.’
The oldest child often dominates the middle child, bosses them around, and competes with them for attention. The introduction of a second child means that the oldest sibling now needs to learn how to share, may feel as though they have been thrust off their pedestal, and must now learn how to negotiate.
The middle child often feels as though they walk along in their older sibling’s shadow, ranking at second best.
The arrival of the baby
When the baby comes along, everyone, including the middle child, flocks to this child, dotes on, and adores them, even well into adult hood. The baby is pandered to, adored, and treated like royalty. By the time the baby is born, which is often years down the track, mum and dad have mellowed, and tend to let a lot of things slide, especially when it comes to discipline.
The baby of the family doesn’t need to impress the parents’ or siblings’. Instead they can just be, while love is thrown at them without question.
How does the middle child feel?
The middle child feels pushed out of the way by both the oldest sibling and the youngest; all the way over to sidelines, where they often learn to become dependent on themselves for their own happiness.
Middle child syndrome is a very real phenomenon, and can be the cause of feelings of rejection, low confidence, isolation, and feelings of unworthiness.
What is a middle child to do?
Little Miss or Mr middle sits in the background wondering when it will be their turn. As a result of this family conundrum, this child often wanders outside of the family for attention. Over time, they tend to quit relying on the family dynamic for their supply of attention, unlike their siblings’.
All of that time spent alone in the bedroom, or curled up in a ball wondering why they aren’t as important as their younger or older siblings’ makes middle children independent, innovative, and not afraid of being alone.
In some ways this feeling of emptiness, or accidental emotional neglect goes the other way for the second child, and they tend to use it to their advantage. This more empathetic, caring, and nurturing individual is renowned for having a big social life, and may even become a humanitarian, fairness or justice fighter.
Famous middle children include Nelson Mandella, Abraham Lincoln, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lopaz, and Martin Luther King.
During the 1960’s, psychologist Diana Baumrind described three different parenting styles based on her research with preschool children. Years later, researchers added a fourth style known as uninvolved parenting.
The American English Dictionary defines the word uninvolved as ‘to not be connected with, or take part in something.’
Uninvolved parenting (which is often referred to as a neglectful form of parenting) is characterised by an absolute lack of responsiveness by the parent to the needs of their child. While these parents provide for the basic necessities such as food and shelter, they are generally completely disconnected from their children’s lives.
The parent is not in tune with the child on an emotional level, and most of the time they are completely unaware of what is going on in their child’s life.
This parent will either make minimal, or no demands of their child. Demands for good behaviour, emotional regulation, self-discipline, and social norms are non-existent. Often, the uninvolved parent will simply dismiss the child, behave indifferently, and will sometimes be completely neglectful.
Opportunities for these children to enjoy out of school sports, music lessons, and other enjoyable activities that most other children have the pleasure of participating in, are often out of reach for children with uninvolved parents.
Routinely, uninvolved parents are far too self-absorbed or preoccupied with work, and their own activities to take the time to teach their children important life skills – and to discuss with their children what is and isn’t socially acceptable.
It is not uncommon for these parents to outright refuse to support their children at school events, or other activities that are important to the child. The child of an uninvolved parent is generally expected to take care of themselves.
The uninvolved parent is extremely emotionally detached from their child, and the emotional involvement that they do have with their child is generally very limited.
However, the degree of involvement that uninvolved parents have with their child varies from parent to parent. Some uninvolved parents may be hands off in nature. However, the same parent may put into place some limits such as a curfews. Other parents practising this model of parenting may be more extreme, and may even reject their own child.
Characteristics of the uninvolved parenting style
Effects of the uninvolved parenting style
Children who have an uninvolved parent may:
Understanding uninvolved parenting
Statistics show that region, cultural aspects, education, and socioeconomic status often play a role in the uninvolved parenting style.
Some cases are hereditary. A parent following this model may have been brought up in an environment filled with negativity, where expressions of genuine love, guidance, support, or positive experiences involving communication with their parent were non- existent.
Researchers associate each parenting style with child outcomes related to social skills and academic achievement. Children with disinterested parents will most likely struggle in nearly every area of their life; cognitively, emotionally, and socially.
Disinterested parents are often so emotionally unresponsive during their child’s childhood, that come adulthood, the same child who was dismissed on an emotional level in childhood, may find that their adult relationships become deeply impacted by existing attachment issues.
A lack of boundaries in the home makes it very difficult for the child of an uninvolved parent to learn more socially acceptable behaviour, which is why children with uninvolved parents are more likely to be difficult to manage.
In some cases, a disinterested parent may simply have a lot of their own problems (depression, working too much, or emotional problems). They may want to give to their children emotionally, but just don’t know how. Parents in this situation may not be able to see how uninvolved they actually are, and could benefit from support.