Have you ever wondered if narcissists ever turn on their golden child?

If so, you’re not alone. This question came up during a support group we held inside of Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse.

I got curious and did a bit of research. Here’s everything I learned.

A narcissistic parent will turn on the golden child if the child:

  • Becomes more independent.
  • Challenges the narcissist’s authority.
  • Fails to meet the narcissistic parent’s expectations.
  • Develops outside interests or relationships.
  • Exhibits vulnerability or weakness.
  • Shows empathy towards the scapegoat.

In this post, I will guide you through these triggers to help you understand what causes a narcissistic parent to turn on their golden child. 

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) The Golden Child Gains Independence

One reason a narcissistic parent might turn on the golden child is when the child starts to gain independence. 

Narcissists often see their children, especially the golden child, as extensions of themselves rather than individuals with their own desires.1

So, when the golden child begins to make decisions or express opinions that differ from the narcissistic parent’s, it can be seen as a betrayal.

As a result, they react harshly to any sign of independence because it threatens the “ideal” image they’ve constructed around the golden child. 

This shift can be confusing and painful for the golden child, who may not understand why being independent leads to an intense backlash.

2) The Golden Child Challenges the Narcissist’s Authority

A narcissistic parent might turn against the golden child if the child starts to challenge their authority or criticizes their behavior. 

To a narcissist, maintaining a position of control and superiority within the family is crucial. 

Therefore, when the golden child, who has traditionally been a source of narcissistic supply and validation, begins to question or oppose the parent’s decisions, actions, or beliefs, it’s perceived as a direct threat to the parent’s authority. 

A golden child opposing the narcissistic parent.

In response, the narcissist may retaliate with negativity, criticism, or emotional withdrawal, aiming to reassert their dominance and discourage any further challenges.2 

This situation is deeply unsettling for the golden child, who is unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of the narcissist’s displeasure and may struggle to reconcile their growing need for autonomy with the desire to regain the parent’s approval.

3) The Golden Child Fails to Meet Expectations

Another moment when a narcissistic parent might turn on the golden child is if the child fails to live up to the parent’s often unrealistic expectations. 

Narcissists view the golden child as a reflection of their own success and worth, projecting an expectation of excellence in all areas, whether academics, sports, or social standing.3 

When the golden child inevitably falls short of these inflated expectations, the narcissist views it as a personal slight and may respond with disproportionate disappointment, criticism, or punitive measures. 

This reaction serves to remind the golden child of their place and reinforces the parent’s control, but it can also deeply damage the child’s self-esteem and sense of worth, leaving them feeling like they are constantly falling short of an unattainable ideal.

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

4) The Golden Child Develops Outside Interests or Relationships

When the golden child begins to develop interests or relationships outside the family that the narcissistic parent cannot control or influence, it can trigger a negative response from the parent.

Narcissists prefer to keep their children, especially the golden child, within an environment they can control fully.4 

This includes monitoring their hobbies, friendships, and even romantic relationships. 

A narcissistic parent monitoring golden child's relationships.

If the golden child starts to show a strong interest in activities outside of what the parent deems acceptable or begins to form close bonds with others who might offer differing perspectives, it is seen as a loss of control.

The narcissistic parent might react by belittling these interests, attempting to sabotage these external relationships, or increasing emotional manipulation to regain their influence over the golden child.

This situation places the golden child in a difficult position, torn between pursuing personal happiness and maintaining peace and approval within the family dynamic.

5) The Golden Child Exhibits Vulnerability or Weakness

A shift in the narcissistic parent’s behavior towards the golden child can also occur if the child shows vulnerability or weakness, especially in ways that the parent views as reflecting poorly on them. 

Narcissists often pride themselves on their family’s appearance of strength, success, and invulnerability.5 

If the golden child expresses struggles with mental health, faces academic or professional failures, or shows emotional sensitivity, the narcissist may view these as imperfections that damage their image.

A narcissistic parent viewing golden child's struggles as damaging their image.

Instead of offering support, the narcissistic parent might respond with indifference, ridicule, or even anger, viewing the child’s struggles as a personal attack. 

This lack of empathy and support can be particularly damaging, leaving the golden child feeling isolated and unworthy at the moments when they most need compassion and understanding.

6) The Golden Child Shows Empathy Towards the Scapegoat

Another unique trigger for a narcissistic parent turning on the golden child occurs when the golden child shows empathy or support towards the scapegoat of the family. 

In families with narcissistic dynamics, there’s often a clear division between the golden child, who can do no wrong in the eyes of the narcissistic parent, and the scapegoat, who is blamed for everything that goes wrong.6 

If the golden child breaks this unspoken rule by showing kindness, understanding, or support to the scapegoat, the narcissistic parent might see this as a betrayal.

The parent may fear that the golden child is aligning with the scapegoat against them or is beginning to see through the dysfunctional family dynamics. 

Because of this, the narcissist’s response might be to withdraw affection, criticize, or otherwise punish the golden child in an attempt to reinforce the divide within the family and maintain control over the golden child’s perceptions and loyalties. 

This action puts the golden child in a difficult position as they must navigate the complex family dynamics and their inherent desire for harmony and understanding.

Suggested Reading: Who Will Become a Narcissist: Scapegoat or Golden Child?

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever observed a shift in how a narcissistic parent treated the golden child as they started to exhibit independence or empathy towards others?

If so, do you know of any strategies that could help someone navigate the complex dynamics of a narcissistic family environment?

Or perhaps you have questions about how to support a golden child or scapegoat in understanding and dealing with these familial challenges.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Michelle Pugle. (2023. June, 1). 7 Signs of a Narcissistic Parent and How to Cope. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/narcissistic-parent-5213058 ↩︎
  2. Julie L. Hall. (2022. November, 21). 13 Ways Narcissistic Parents Sabotage Their Children. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-narcissist-in-your-life/202211/13-ways-narcissistic-parents-sabotage-their-children ↩︎
  3. Preston Ni. (2016. February, 28). 10 Signs of a Narcissistic Parent. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/communication-success/201602/10-signs-narcissistic-parent ↩︎
  4. Newport Institute. (2022. November, 1). How Having a Narcissistic Parent Impacts Young Adult Mental Health. Newport Institute. https://www.newportinstitute.com/resources/mental-health/narcissistic-parent/ ↩︎
  5. Nakpangi Thomas. (2023. June, 27). Narcissistic Parents: Traits, Signs, & How to Deal With One. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-parent/ ↩︎
  6. Susan Fishman. (2023. July, 31). Understanding the Dynamics of Narcissistic Families. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/the-narcissistic-family-structure ↩︎

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