In today’s article, I am going to discuss the toxic dynamic between a highly malignant narcissistic ‘golden child,’ and the ‘scapegoated child’. Not all golden children are narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic. The vast majority are just ‘golden’ – as in all good, doted on, coddled, and adored. However, the narcissistic ‘golden child’ is not so benign, and more often than not will take great pleasure in supporting the narcissistic parent in destroying the scapegoat child’s confidence and self- esteem. Sibling to sibling psychological abuse is very real and can affect the children abused by these toxic siblings terribly in adulthood.
The disordered golden child is not always the oldest child. However, a lot of the time the oldest child will play out the ‘golden child/ scapegoat dynamic’ with the second child within a narcissistic family set up. Many of my friends are either enduring this dynamic with an older golden child sibling still. Or, they have made the heart-wrenching decision to go No Contact with this older sibling.
The narcissistic ‘golden child’ will mistreat all of their siblings. However, the scapegoated child will endure the most, because they will be the child who refuses to go along with the narcissistic child’s illusions of grandeur. They will refuse to accept the narcissistic child’s belief that they are entitled to abuse, steal from others, become aggressive at the slightest criticism, or have complete control over other people. The scapegoated child refuses to mirror this child as they would like to be mirrored. So, the golden child, with the approval of the narcissistic parent, smashes the mirror.
The narcissist as a black and white thinker
Narcissists are black and white thinkers. They never see shades of grey. You’re either good or bad in their eyes. Very often two people will be separated into ‘black’ and ‘white’. One person will be seen as black (all bad) and the other will be seen as white (all good). Sometimes the two same people will rotate between good and bad, or black and white, in the mind of the narcissist.
The first child is often all good, and the second child is often all bad. However, this isn’t always the way it goes. Sometimes the first child is all bad, and the second child is all good.
Birth order plays a major role in personality development, without narcissism being involved. In a healthy family, the oldest child is the most likely child to emulate the parents. If the parents are narcissistic, the second child has a problem.
The narcissistic child as a replica of the narcissistic parent
The narcissistic golden child is often a replica of the narcissistic parent. They subconsciously take on the narcissistic parent’s values, beliefs, and way of life. They integrate these beliefs into every aspect of the life. Whereas the scapegoated child consciously completely rejects the narcissistic parent’s way of life, beliefs, and values. They consciously question the narcissist’s way of thinking – whereas the narcissistic child just goes along to get along.
The narcissistic child completely models their narcissistic parent and chooses to treat others based on how their role model treats others. The scapegoat, on the other hand, decides that they will treat people respectfully, because they don’t like how their narcissistic role model treats others.
Why does the narcissistic child take on the narcissist’s personality?
Nobody really knows why the narcissistic child takes on the same personality as their parent, and why the scapegoated child doesn’t. However, there are varying theories on the matter. Family dynamics also play a part in the creation of the golden child and the scapegoat.
The highly malignant golden child is not nurtured by the narcissistic parent. They can’t relay empathy, because they have never been shown any. Empathy is often taught. If a child isn’t pulled up on their ill-treatment of others and given consequences for it, then they don’t learn the difference between kindness and unkindness. If a child is not corrected on their behavior, then they’ll think that it is ok to behave badly. Nobody has told them otherwise. This child learns early on that they can do whatever they want.
In the narcissistic abuse communities, scapegoated adult children often discuss the reality that they as the scapegoat was constantly being pulled up on their poor behavior, and were constantly told when they weren’t treating people properly. The golden child, on the other hand, was never pulled up and was taught that whatever they did, no matter how vile, was seen as ok in the narcissistic parent’s eyes, because they were the golden child.
The expectations for each child, (scapegoated and golden) are different, to coincide with the narcissist’s black and white thinking.
The narcissistic golden child is encouraged to take on the un-empathetic, self-serving behavior of the parent, whereas the scapegoated individuals are often told that they are ruthless, and need to be more empathetic.
”Don’t be like the scapegoat! ”
The golden child learns very quickly that to gain the narcissistic parent’s approval, one must behave in this un-empathetic, judgemental, disgusting way. If they behave like the scapegoat, (concerned, empathetic, and loving) they will be treated like the scapegoat. The narcissistic golden child refuses to stand in the corner with the scapegoated child and have stones thrown at them. Instead, they unconsciously decide that one will fare better in this family system, and may even gain some approval, or feigned love and support if they take on the role of psycho bully.
This isn’t thought out properly. It’s just a survival of the fittest mentality that some children (narcissistically inclined children) take on.
The malignancy of any golden child can very much depend on the family dynamic. If the narcissistic child only has a narcissistic mother or father to mirror, then the child is in big trouble. However, if this child has some love from one parent, that parent being the enabling parent, then the child may fair better in terms of malignancy.
The scapegoat rejects narcissism
The scapegoat has the empathy gene, and they know how to love. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes, and feel their pain. This ability to feel the internal pain of others is what drives them to speak up about the abuse from the narcissistic parent towards both the ‘golden child,’ and themselves.
It is not clear as to why the scapegoat child is more sensitive to the feelings of others and has more empathy. It may be because they are seen as all ‘black’ in the mind of the narcissistic parent. The scapegoated child is constantly reminded by the narcissist that they need to be empathetic, kind, and improve upon the innate ‘badness’ that the narcissist has projected onto them. This treatment often pushes the scapegoat child to work even harder to prove their goodness to the narcissistic parent.
A lack of entitlement may be their saving grace, or; they may simply have been nurtured more than the golden child by an enabling parent somewhere along the line.
The narcissistic parent’s rejection of the scapegoated child is a double-edged sword. In some ways being rejected pays for this child. Luckily they were never embraced with a sick love, and never had delusions of grandeur thrown their way. They escaped the false self which took over the narcissistic child, and the damage done to them is somewhat reparable.
The narcissist’s differential treatment of the two children puts the scapegoat in a position where they begin to see through their golden child sibling. They can see straight through the lie the golden child has fallen victim to. The scapegoated child knows their golden child sibling is not entitled, knows they are not grand, are not going to be famous, and is not this amazing person the narcissistic parent keeps making out they are. They see how cruel this child is becoming. So, the scapegoat child openly rejects narcissism.
What happens when the scapegoat talks about the elephant in the room?
The scapegoated child is in big trouble. This mother (father) and son, or mother (father) and daughter duo are the hierarchy. The second child either follows suit, and allows the narcissistic parent and golden child to control them, without complaining; or they complain, and become scapegoated.
The scapegoated option is the option unintentionally chosen by the second child, who almost always ends up sparring with the entitled child daily, and complaining endlessly to the narcissistic parent about the endless abuses incurred from the golden child. Challenging the narcissist’s illusion about their ‘special’ child ends badly for the scapegoated child. They spend their entire childhood being pecked at by a psychologically dangerous child, and a psychotic parent.
This golden child represents to the narcissistic parent everything amazing they see in themselves. The narcissistic parent lives and breathes through this grandiose, omnipotent, amazing child. This is the child that will defend the narcissist to no end, battle all of the people that continue to harm the narcissist’s ego, and will prove their omnipotence to the people around them. The narcissist will shine like a star through this child.
The scapegoat child strikes blow upon blow to the narcissist’s ego when they point out that the golden child isn’t so wonderful, is floored, troubled, and mean. This creates a huge narcissistic injury in this parent, who sees everything they love about themselves in this narcissistic child.
The narcissistic parent doesn’t encourage love between the two children
There is no love here. Only pure hatred from the narcissistic golden child towards the scapegoated child. The relationship between these two children is very similar to the iconic Cain and Able tale in the bible. The narcissistic parent deliberately sets this dynamic up for their own vested interests.
This dangerous, toxic dynamic between the two children serves a purpose for the narcissist, who has deliberately pitted both children against one another.
The narcissist encourages the golden child to try to gain control over the scapegoat child. The narcissistic parent never intends to encourage love and harmony. Instead, they allow the golden child to abuse the scapegoat, and they don’t bat an eyelid. Its a hate fest, where this dynamic duo attack, and discredit the scapegoated child any chance they get.
The narcissist will share the children’s secrets with each child, paint each child as black behind each other’s backs, and will feign victimhood when the situation explodes, and the children blow up at one another. This friction between the children is just another way of gaining attention from anyone who will listen when the narcissist explains to people how they have these two terrible children who can’t get along. The narcissist will do anything for fuel, and drama. Even if it means triangulating their children.
The golden child at this stage is a fully fledged narcissist. They operated with a false self, and they believe in the illusion – that they truly are grandiose, a hero, and omnipotent. When the scapegoated child challenges the narcissistic illusion, they are pummelled, turned against, lied about, and smashed down by the narcissistic child to the narcissistic parent, who just goes along with it.
The situation by this stage is too far gone, and the relatively good-natured enabling parent can’t get the situation between the two children under control because the narcissist isn’t on the same page as them.
How does the narcissistic child treat their siblings?
The narcissistic child doesn’t love any of their siblings and treats each of them terribly. They will, however, feign kindness towards the sibling or siblings’, that they feel are easier to control, and are more compliant appliances; especially if it serves them in some way.
The golden child will use these children as porns to antagonize the scapegoated child. They will share their lollies with a more compliant child and reject the scapegoat when they ask if they too can have a lolly. They will allow the more compliant child to engage with, or play with them while informing the scapegoat that they are not invited to play. As time goes on, and the scapegoat becomes more difficult to control, the golden child will even try to brainwash the other siblings into believing that the scapegoated child is fundamentally floored and that everybody must exclude them in some way or another.
This behavior worsens in adulthood, and often results in family mobbing. The golden child and narcissistic parent are always the ringleaders in family mobbing against the scapegoat.
The golden child will rage at their siblings, laugh at them in a condescending manner; use them when they please, and reject them if they suddenly need help, support, or empathy.
However, this being said, the more compliant sibling, or siblings, will not endure the harassment that the scapegoated child endures; unless of course, they question the golden child’s control. If the second child is already the scapegoat, the golden child has no need to go after the other siblings’. They already have a punching bag.
The golden child will provoke, and provoke and provoke the scapegoat child into arguments, while never antagonizing the more compliant siblings in such a way. They will pick this child to bits. They will pick at their entire being. When they become upset and react to the abuse, they will be told that they are unhinged, unstable and crazy.
Two sets of rules for golden children and scapegoats
There are two sets of rules for the golden child and the scapegoat child. If this child rages and screams at everyone, the narcissist doesn’t move on in to protect the children from the abuse. Instead, they accept it as the norm. However, if the scapegoat loses it because they can’t tolerate the golden child’s abuse anymore, they will never hear the end of it from the narcissistic parent. They will be told they are neurotic, highly strung, and a bad person; whereas the golden child’s faults will be swept underneath the carpet as though they never happened.
They are all good, and the scapegoat is all bad.
The narcissistic child is groomed to be the narcissist’s soldier
The narcissistic parent doesn’t like anybody. Nobody will ever be good enough, and everybody who comes into contact with the narcissist is a potential scapegoat.
The narcissistic parent literally grooms the golden child into becoming their soldier. The golden child (who will do anything to be accepted in this rejecting narcissistic family system) falls victim to the narcissist’s manipulations, and believes in the narcissist’s lies told continually about potential scapegoats. The golden child is the ultimate ‘bark dog’. This child behaves as though they are at war with everyone.
The narcissistic parent lives through the golden child. They encourage the golden child to trash talk everybody that comes into the room, be on the lookout for potential scapegoats, and to judge people harshly, with no room for error. Other people’s faults become the golden child’s focus, instead of their own.
Judge judge judge.
Often this duo will be a mother and a son, a mother and her daughter, a father, and daughter, or father and son. They are best friends and will conquer the world together. If anyone challenges the system, the golden child is there with the narcissistic parent to organize the smear campaign. Sadly, the object of the smear campaign is often the family scapegoat.
Why does the golden child have it in for the scapegoat to such intensity?
This is about the golden child’s sense of entitlement. The narcissistic parent felt entitled enough to create a mini-me and taught the child early on that they are entitled to exercise complete control over the scapegoat child, and everybody else they come into contact with.
This kind of golden child becomes that narcissistic adult in the room that a lot of us have probably met – the one who must have complete control over the actions, words, thoughts, and beliefs of everybody within their environment. The scapegoat is just meant to sit down and shut-up. The golden child’s sense of entitlement will not allow this child to accept that other people have human rights to a different opinion or different ideas from them.
Pulling the golden child up on their behavior, or disagreeing with their opinion on any given topic is seen by the golden child as severely manipulative behavior by the perpetrator of such an offense (usually the scapegoat).
The narcissistic parent is completely to blame for this over exaggerated sense of grandiosity and entitlement in the golden child because this parent taught the golden child that they have complete control over everybody in their environment. The first victim under the complete control of the golden child was the scapegoat. The narcissistic parent gave the golden child this position of power over the scapegoat and set the golden child up to believe that they will have control over anybody in their space.
What happens to the scapegoat’s relationship with the golden child in adulthood?
The relationship between the scapegoat and the golden child is often so damaged that the scapegoat outwardly resents the golden child. They don’t have a problem challenging the golden child’s false self. They don’t like them, and they aren’t going to hide it, regardless of the repercussions.
This person damaged the scapegoat so badly in childhood that there is no way that the scapegoated child will mirror back to the golden child that they are grand and omnipotent. The scapegoat can’t be controlled. The scapegoat is a continued reminder to the golden child that they are truly an abuser and a dangerous person.
So what does the golden child do? They smash the mirror over and over, with the help of the narcissistic parent, until the scapegoat eventually walks out of the family.
Eventually, many narcissistic golden children ruin the scapegoat’s reputation in adult life and turn their siblings against them, as well as the enabling parent. Rigid, weak enabling family members often just go with it. The scapegoat is often so terribly shamed and humiliated by these people that they are advised by their therapist to leave the entire family.
Does anyone support the scapegoat?
It’s unlikely. There appears to be an inability for the scapegoats’ siblings, even the less narcissistically inclined siblings to empathise with the intensity of the scapegoat’s pain; because if they could empathise at all, they would stand up for their sibling, and actually ask their golden child sibling, or the narcissist, to stop abusing the scapegoat. However, most of the narcissist’s children turn a blind eye, look the other way, and allow for the scapegoated child to get pecked and pecked and pecked, until there is literally no soul left to peck at.
It often becomes a case of ‘well thank goodness it isn’t not me.’
The narcissist convinces the other siblings who fail to support their scapegoated sibling that the scapegoat is unhinged, mentally ill, and needs help with emotional regulation. The golden child also says these vile things about the scapegoat in the hope of escaping all accountability.
The scapegoat’s strength
Scapegoated individuals are strong, often creative, and intelligent. They are often the most empathetic child in the narcissistic family, which is the primary reason why they are so targeted. When they leave the narcissistic family they take these traits with them, grieve the family, heal, and begin traveling the road less traveled by family members in the narcissistic family; the road to recovery.
The scapegoat has integrity. They never back down on this integrity, and they usually go on to have very fulfilling lives. The narcissistic family members either stay united in chaos or turn on each other.