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Scapegoating in Narcissistic Family Systems

Narcissistic Parent Scapegoat Recovery

Welcome to our new subscribers!

First of all, I’m pleased to share that I am now a recognized licensed Mental Health professional within the YouTube Partner Program. YouTube conducts extensive research on a practitioner before granting this formal recognition. Not everyone cares if information being distributed on social media is coming from an authoritative source but for those who do, you can look for a light blue banner under each video to see if the channel owner is licensed and considered to be an authoritative source within their chosen niche. Learn more about YouTube’s Health Professional program.

On a different note: Thank you to all of you who listened to my interview on family scapegoating with Sheree Clark last week and gave me such positive feedback. For those of you who missed this interview, I will be sharing it here in a future post once I receive the audio file from Sheree.

Dysfunctional Versus Narcissistic Family Systems

Next: The video I released today (see below) on narcissistic families and scapegoating explores family systems that are dominated by a narcissistic parent. This would be a parent that meets the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder or who displays strong narcissistic traits.

My years of research on what I eventually named family scapegoating abuse (FSA) confirmed that scapegoating can occur in both dysfunctional and narcissistic families. However, these days it seems that all dysfunctional families are assumed to be narcissistic, and this is simply not the case.

Specifically: A narcissistic family system is always dysfunctional, but a dysfunctional family is not always a narcissistic family system. A dysfunctional family that scapegoats may have intergenerational trauma and/or a parent who is suffering from a personality disorder, such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Histrionic Personality Disorder, which are classified as Axis II disorders in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM).

Alternatively, the scapegoating parent (or other family power-holder) may suffer from an Axis I disorder, such as an anxiety disorder, PTSD, major depression, or Substance use. In these types of dysfunctional family systems, FSA is typically driven by the Family Projective Identification Process, which you can read more about in my article on dysfunctional family scapegoating.

How Is a Narcissist Created?

There are many clinical views and theories regarding how a narcissist is ‘created’. Some theorize that a narcissist experienced chronic parental criticism, abuse, trauma, or neglect in early childhood. Alternatively, the child may have been excessively praised and objectified by a parent, depriving them of healthy attachment, bonding, and connection.

Viewed through this lens, narcissistic personalities form around a core emotional injury in response to toxic shame, loss, and attachment deficiencies. Narcissists may therefore suffer from intra-psychic ‘splitting’ and a sense of core emptiness, meaninglessness, and alienation from self and others. In the Greek myth of Narcissus, he dies of sorrow due to loneliness and alienation.

In the field of Cognitive Neuroscience, research on narcissism suggests that those who clinically qualify as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or who are malignant narcissists exhibit “consistencies pointing to abnormalities in certain brain areas, especially the insular cortex, that are associated with features of NPD, especially lack of empathy. The origins of NPD remain unknown; however biological, psychological and social factors all play important roles in the etiology of this disorder (sourced from 

Regardless of how a narcissistic personality is formed, it has been my clinical observation that children who grow up in a narcissistic family system are not cherished individuals to be nurtured and loved; they are instead a source of ‘narcissistic supply’ whose only purpose is to serve the infantile, primitive needs emanating from the ‘split’ psyche of the narcissist. This same ‘splitting’ dynamic can also result in the creation of a ‘golden child’ and a ‘scapegoat child’. In such families, the scapegoating of a child can be particularly severe.

Below is a video discussing my clinical experience with narcissistic family systems and how the ‘scapegoat’ is created. Video chapters are included beneath the video for easy reference.


  • 00:00 – Intro
  • 01:46 – Scapegoating in a Narcissistic family system – About NPD
  • 02:25 – Intra-psychic splitting and childhood trauma / narcissism
  • 03:52 – Narcissistic abuse and family scapegoating abuse (FSA)
  • 05:29 – Understanding the Narcissistic family system
  • 06:08 – The ‘Golden Child’ / ‘Scapegoat Child’ split
  • 08:22 – Client case study of the ‘Golden Child’ / ‘Scapegoat Child’ split
  • 08:46 – When a scapegoating parent is a Malignant Narcissist
  • 09:36 – Family members as ‘Narcissistic Supply’
  • 10:48 – The twisted, primitive needs of the Narcissistic parent
  • 11:18 – Trauma Bonding and Narcissistic Family Abuse
  • 12:57 – The fall-out of being raised in energetic ‘war zone’ (clinical assessment process)

6 thoughts on “Scapegoating in Narcissistic Family Systems”

  1. raenyc

    Your description of the dream in your video on righteous rage is similar to the analogy I carry to describe family narcissism. It is like being imprisoned for the crimes of your family while they remain free to continue perpetuating their crimes and travel around posting my picture in post offices around the country. Even release from prison does not protect you and your only hope is the witness protection program (no-contact).

      1. raenyc

        Yes, please feel to use it wherever you think it will be beneficial.

        I, too, had my own dream, but it was before I “discovered” there was a name and a condition to the terrible way I was treated in my family. This was when I was grieving the death of my husband, who my family absolutely adored. During the 10 years of our marriage before his death to cancer, I thought my family finally accepted me, and put childhood behind us. But after he died, I was promptly returned to my childhood role and any “acceptance” during those 10 years was for my husband’s benefit.

        At the time, I could not understand what was happening or why my family had suddenly turned cold and cruel. My situation was made more difficult by the loss of most of my friends, which I learned was not uncommon, especially for a young widow (I was 38).

        About 100 miles north of NYC is a B&B where my husband and I spent several memorable weekends in the year before he died. We were their first guests–they weren’t even officially open yet–and became friends with the owners and their teenage son and daughter. These were the rare friends I retained following my husband’s death, and rarer yet was the pleasure I still had spending the weekend there.

        In my dream, I pulled into the parking lot, just after dusk, and parked facing the side of the building, a 19th century white mansion. In the headlights of my car were my family, all lined up in a row facing the car standing slightly apart from each other. Each was dressed in drab periwinkle blue shirts and bottoms, like hospital scrubs. Everyone stared in a different direction, as absently as their pose, and avoided eye contact. Notably, they blocked the walkway leading up to the side entrance. They were there to prevent me from going inside. This was all at my mother’s bidding — a family of flying monkeys, if you will– and she had one purpose: to make sure I had no friends.

        I couldn’t understand why they were doing this to me–even my father, who I always believed kept some check on my mother’s hostilities against me. I suspected he was there to avoid grief from my mother, but my four siblings were solidly lined up against me. By then, I had already stopped contact with my family, figuring I would be safe if just stayed out of harm’s way. But now they stepped out of their world to intrude directly into mine, which made this all the more baffling. No one would acknowledge or talk to me. They were as cold and hard as a large marble carving.

        I was angry as well as hurt. I wanted to yell, get out of here! This is my world, not yours. You have no right to be here, no right to do this to me. I don’t know if I said anything in my dream or not, but I do remember thinking, “Is this what you want to do with your lives? Travel 600 miles to stop me from having any friends?” (I moved to NYC when I was 22, while my family lived in OH.)

        In fact, my family was so good at provoking me, that as a small child I acquired the identity of being the “angry one” in the family. In my real life, I’m the one counted on to be cool and collected when everyone else is losing their head.

        1. grandmabaabaa

          “my family was so good at provoking me, that … I acquired the identity of being the “angry one” in the family. In my real life, I’m the one counted on to be cool and collected when everyone else is losing their head.”

          I could so relate to this. It creates some sort of cognitive dissonance. I’m told I have anger issues, that I’m overly dramatic, but in my life apart from family it’s rare I ever come unglued. Just yesterday I was going through some very stressful situations in relation to my job. I said very little, let the crisis pass (as most crises do), then thought to myself, “where does my family get the idea I’m dramatic, or have anger issues?” I should have been very angry with several people, but chose to let them work through things. What could have been a real clash of wills ended up being a little blip or two in my day… thanks to me.

          I’ll be seeing some of my siblings at a memorial service for an old friend in a couple weeks. For the first time I’m not overly apprehensive. I’ll just stay away from them, offer my condolences, and leave.

          Thank you to Rebecca for creating a place where we can voice our thoughts and feelings surrounding our roles of family scapegoat. It’s therapeutic simply knowing we’re not alone.

          1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, LMFT, CCTP

            In many families that scapegoat, the ‘Identified Patient'(IP) of the family MUST be viewed as angry, overly emotional, or otherwise “out of control” – This is particularly true when the Family Projective Identification Process is active in the family due to the unconscious anxiety / unfelt intergenerational systemic trauma being deposited onto / into the family IP. FSA adult survivors may notice that certain family members will deliberately “poke to provoke” a strong emotional reaction so that they can feel “in control” while the FSA target is “out of control.” Thank you for your comment; btw, we also have a nice community forming over on my YouTube channel, you might check it out if you haven’t yet.

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