Who do you think is more likely to become a narcissist: the scapegoat or golden child? 

If you don’t know, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. One of our community members asked us about this, so I did some research. Here’s what I discovered.

In a narcissistic family dynamic, it is more likely for a golden child to become a narcissist than a scapegoat because they:

  • Are rarely held accountable.
  • Seek validation and admiration.
  • Develop a heightened sense of entitlement.
  • Learn to use manipulation to navigate social interactions.
  • Believe they are special and unique.

In this post, I will guide you through these reasons to help you understand why golden children are more likely to become narcissists.

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

They Are Rarely Held Accountable

One reason the golden child is more prone to developing narcissism is that they are rarely held accountable for their actions.1 

It’s like if someone breaks a rule and gets away with it because they’re the coach’s favorite player. 

When parents overlook or excuse the golden child’s negative behaviors, it sends a message that they can do no wrong. 

This lack of accountability can foster a sense of impunity, leading them to believe that they are above the rules that apply to everyone else. 

Why is this a problem?

Without consequences, they don’t learn empathy or the importance of considering others’ feelings, which are crucial for healthy social interactions. 

This can pave the way for narcissistic tendencies to take root as the golden child grows up believing they are exceptional and unbound by the social contracts that govern empathetic and responsible behavior.

Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children?

They Seek Validation and Admiration

A golden child may be more likely to develop narcissistic traits due to a lack of genuine emotional connection within the family.2 

In families where narcissism is present, emotional interactions often serve the narcissistic parent’s needs rather than fostering true understanding and empathy among family members. 

For the golden child, this means that love and acceptance are conditional, based on their achievements and how well they fulfill the parent’s expectations. 

A narcissistic father talking to his son who will learn that their parent's love is conditional.

This conditional love teaches them to value themselves and others based on external achievements or status rather than mutual emotional support and understanding. 

Growing up in such an environment can hinder their ability to form deep, empathetic connections with others, as they have learned to associate love with performance and approval, not with genuine emotional bonds. 

This skewed understanding of relationships can contribute to the development of narcissistic behaviors as they continue to seek validation and admiration rather than true emotional intimacy.

They Develop a Heightened Sense of Entitlement

Another reason the golden child is more likely to become a narcissist is the development of a heightened sense of entitlement.3 

Being consistently treated as superior or more deserving by the parents can lead the golden child to believe that they are inherently better than others and are entitled to special treatment and privileges.

This belief is reinforced every single time the parents praise them excessively for their accomplishments or qualities.

Unlike constructive self-esteem, which encourages humility and gratitude, this inflated self-view fosters expectations of special treatment in all areas of life. 

As adults, this heightened sense of entitlement can manifest in narcissistic behaviors as they navigate the world expecting others to cater to their desires. 

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

They Learn to Use Manipulation to Navitgage Social Interactions

The golden child might be more prone to developing narcissistic traits due to their exposure to manipulative behaviors from the narcissistic parent.4 

This exposure acts as a form of learning, where the child observes and internalizes manipulation as a normal way to achieve goals and control situations. 

It’s like learning a language by immersion; they become fluent in manipulation without necessarily being aware of it. 

By watching their parent twist situations, play emotional games, or use guilt and flattery to influence other family members, the golden child learns these methods as effective strategies for navigating social interactions. 

A child witnessing how their narcissistic parent blames the other parent for everything.

This learned behavior can evolve into narcissistic traits as the child grows to use manipulation to maintain a sense of superiority and control in their relationships, mirroring the dynamics they experienced at home.

Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Treat Their Siblings?

They Believe They’re Special and Unique

Being consistently singled out as the golden child can instill in them a deep-seated belief in their own specialness and uniqueness.5 

This isn’t just about feeling loved or valued; it’s about being led to believe that they are fundamentally different and superior to others because of their talents, intelligence, or even because of the narcissistic parent’s projections. 

This belief is reinforced not through genuine accomplishment or self-discovery but through the parent’s need to idolize them as a reflection of their own perceived excellence. 

Over time, this can foster a narcissistic worldview where the golden child feels entitled to special treatment and admiration from everyone, not just within the family. 

This inflated sense of self-importance, disconnected from real-world feedback and growth, can, and often does, contribute to the development of a narcissistic personality.

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 witnessed or experienced the effects of being labeled as the golden child or scapegoat in your family life?

How did these roles influence your or someone else’s behavior and self-perception, and what strategies did you find effective in dealing with these dynamics?

Or perhaps you have questions about addressing or understanding these family roles better.

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. Allison Broennimann. (2024. March, 2). What is Golden Child Syndrome? 7 Signs You Were the Golden Child. wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/Golden-Child-Syndrome ↩︎
  2. Kaytee Gillis. (2022. November, 8). What Is a Narcissistic Family Structure? 10 Signs & How to Deal. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-family-structure/ ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  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. Stephanie Barnes. (2021. August, 31). Golden Child Syndrome: The Psychology Behind It & Its Effects In Adulthood. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/golden-child-syndrome ↩︎

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