If the adult child doesn’t go No Contact, the abuse continues, usually through some form of isolation, silent treatment, or exclusion. Scapegoated adults are talked badly about by the family and not invited to family functions. They are given no emotional or financial support, even though other members of the family are given these things.
It’s not unusual for a scapegoated adult child to be living in poverty, even if their families are wealthy–not only because they were denied financial support when they needed it, but also because their self-esteem took such a terrible beating that they have no confidence at all and never take any risks that could improve their lives. Severe C-PTSD can also cause a person to have an inability to focus or concentrate or set realistic goals.
A Scapegoat isn’t always a child. It can also be a parent, in which the children are turned against that parent by the abusive one.
2. The Golden Child/ Family Hero
The Golden Child, often (but not always) the eldest child, is the parent’s trophy, pride, and joy. The parents may seem to love that child, but being incapable of real love, their “love” is conditional and is based on their fantasy of what they want that child to be, not on who the child really is. The child is assigned to be a Mini-Me of the narcissistic parent.
The Golden Child, basking in constant approval, showered with toys and gifts, never held accountable for any wrongdoing (which may be projected onto the Scapegoat), and often recruited as a co-abuser in the abuse of the Scapegoat, grows up entitled, grandiose, and spoiled.
Because their Real Self has never been appropriately mirrored and their less than perfect traits are ignored or projected onto someone else, and because they were rewarded for playing the role of the Perfect One, a Golden Child in a family is the most likely to develop NPD and become a clone of the abusive parent. In this way their souls are destroyed even more than the Scapegoat’s.
To continue to be the parent’s favorite, they had to play a role which became internalized. This becomes their False Self. After a while, they are no longer able to access their Real Self at all.
Golden Children who have become narcissistic continue their entitled, bullying, manipulative, grandiose behavior into adulthood and are likely to head dysfunctional families themselves, continuing the cycle.
A non-Golden Child, even a Scapegoat, can become a narcissist too (usually the covert form of NPD), for self-protection, but Golden Children tend to develop the grandiose, malignant form of narcissism and as such, are the least likely to ever seek help for their disorder or admit they have become abusers themselves.
3. The Lost Child.
In larger families (three or more children), one child is likely to be ignored and treated as if they don’t exist. This isn’t a form of silent treatment; it’s as if the parents don’t notice the child is there at all.
The Lost Child isn’t victimized like the Scapegoat, but they aren’t spoiled either. They may or may not be recruited to assist in the abuse of the Scapegoat, but they won’t necessarily be punished if they don’t cooperate; they will simply be ignored.
The Lost Child roles in dysfunctional families is to be quiet and shy, and not make any waves. They are probably aware of the family dysfunction and may sympathize with the scapegoat (but don’t let anyone know this).
As they grow older, they may crave attention or develop addictions, or they may remain shy and retiring throughout their lives. They tend to avoid confrontation and drama and may become extremely introverted.
Related: Were you raised in a dysfunctional family? Read 13 Ways Being Raised by a Narcissist Can Affect You
4. The Clown/Mascot.
The Clown/Mascot attempts to divert attention away from the family dysfunction (and also get attention for themselves) by making light of everything. Everything becomes a joke to them, and they even use their own families as sources for humor.