In comparison to the other members of the narcissistic family structure, narcissists treat their golden child really well. The golden child gets all of the opportunities, privileges, and resources that the other family members could only dream of having but because narcissists are so superficial and selfish and lack empathy, many are left wondering if the narcissist would ever turn on the golden child. 

Narcissists will turn on the golden child when the golden child stops being a source of validation, admiration, and reassurance. Even though narcissists give the golden child many opportunities, privileges, and resources that the other family members don’t get, they still view the golden child as expendable.

This article is going to explain the reason that narcissists are willing to give someone they view as expendable, the golden child, the opportunities, privileges, and resources that they never give anyone else and we’ve also created a short video below that explains the different roles children in a narcissistic family structure fall into so that you can learn as much information form this article as possible.

A Short Video That Outlines the 5 Roles Children Have In Narcissistic Family Structures

Why Do Narcissists Turn on the Golden Child?

The “love” that a narcissistic parent has for their golden child is conditional because they view the golden child as a positive extension of themselves. If the golden child were to somehow contradict their narcissistic parent’s perception of them, the narcissistic parent could begin to see the golden child as a negative extension of themselves. 

The reason that a narcissist can turn on their golden child can be found within the complexity of a massive narcissistic personality trait that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlined, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

A narcissist’s preoccupation with fantasies is often thought about as something that happens in the future. For example, it is very common to see a narcissist fantasize about being rich and famous. But their preoccupation with fantasies is also intertwined with their past, especially when they’re about going back in time and changing events to support their grandiose sense of self-importance and belief that they are special/unique. 

It goes without saying that narcissists can’t time travel but they can live vicariously through their golden child to fulfill their fantasies of going back in time and changing events to support their grandiose sense of self-importance and belief that they are special/unique. 

a narcissist daydreaming about success

An Example of a Narcissistic Parent Turning on Their Golden Child

Imagine that a narcissistic father has wanted to be a firefighter for his entire life but has always been rejected because of his substance abuse, poor driving record, and numerous criminal offenses. Because he’s narcissistic, he’s incapable of acknowledging that he is the only one to blame for not being able to be a firefighter. 

He’s convinced that people are out to get him because he’d be too good at the job. Instead of moving on with his life, this narcissistic father begins to live vicariously through his 14 year old golden child in a desperate attempt to fulfill this dream of being a firefighter and fantasies of going back in time to show people how their biggest failure in life was not accepting him as the greatest firefighter that they have ever seen.

From the age of 14 to 18, this narcissistic father pushes his golden child to be a firefighter every single day. He puts his son through tough firefighter exercises, forces his son to memorize everything about firefighting, brings his son to watch the real firefighters train and points out everything that they are doing “wrong”. 

At a quick glance, one may think that this narcissistic father has a really tight bond with his golden child. But the truth is, the narcissistic father doesn’t even truly acknowledge that he (his son…?) is a person with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of his own. All he sees is an object that he can use to fulfill his dreams and fantasies. 

When the narcissist’s golden child turns 18, he tells his father that he doesn’t want to be a firefighter anymore, he wants to go to college to be an engineer. His father takes this very personally because he has been living vicariously through his son for such a long time that he’s lost touch with reality and can’t tell the difference between his own life and his son’s life. 

When his golden child tells him that he doesn’t want to be a firefighter, it contradicts the narcissistic father’s sense of self and triggers all of his suppressed negative emotions about himself. These negative emotions are very powerful ones like shame, sense of inadequacy, feelings of being worthless, and fear.

So, instead of seeing his son as a positive extension of himself, he now views his son as a negative extension of himself. This causes him to treat his son as his scapegoat, a repository for all of the narcissist’s suppressed negative emotions and the person who gets the worst of their abuse in a narcissistic family structure.

a narcissist yelling at his golden child

Why Is the “Love” That the Narcissist Gives the Golden Child So Conditional?

For the narcissist, the golden child is a tool that they can use to solidify their sense of self. Yes, the golden child’s talents give the narcissist a lot of validation, admiration, and reassurance that they use to help suppress their negative emotions. But in a very delusional and emotionally inadequate sense, the golden child also allows narcissists to change reality to support their sense of self. 

They no longer have to keep their failures in their subconscious because they can live vicariously through the golden child. This means that the golden child is in a very powerful position because since their narcissistic parent lives vicariously through them, they have a significant amount of control over their emotional stability.

The “love” that a narcissist has for their golden child is so conditional because if the golden child were to do anything that contradicted the narcissist’s sense of self and triggered their suppressed negative emotions, the narcissist would have to discard them immediately to protect their own emotional stability and sense of self.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

We spoke about this a lot in our article Is the Scapegoat or Golden Child More Likely to Become a Narcissist but the narcissistic parent of a golden child will be physically available, responsive, and at times, consistent. But they will be unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent on an emotional level.

Narcissists turn on their golden child all the time and their emotional neglect of the golden child means that the golden child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self. This could lead to them becoming a narcissist themselves because their narcissistic parent viewed and treated them as an extension of themselves.


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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