SCAPEGOAT Family Role (Part 1)

they won’t have to!

PREVIOUS: The Placater #2

SITE:  The Scapegoat Who Changed Her Family Role


NOTE: This is not the same as the being scapegoated – where parents pick out one child to blame for all the family’s trouble which they themselves are causing.
HERE, the Scapegoat role seems ‘voluntary’, in the sense that this position is being held as a self-sacrifice.

Provide a change of focus by allowing everyone to think they are the source of the family’s problems

For Self: take on the ‘bad-guy’ role to protect the addict or other main trouble-maker from having to face his/her pain, their sacrifice given as a love-offering
IMP: An in-your-face refusal to comply with a parent’s direct or unspoken demand for perfection-ism 

For Family: serve as the “pressure valve” in the family when tension builds. They misbehave to draw attention away from the ‘problem’
parent so the family’s ‘issue’ is anything other than the addiction
• also to protect the family from any outside interference (cops, social workers, shrinks, social services….)

• try to show family what’s defiant_girl-1really going on, hoping they’ll learn from it & change BY acting out the tension & anger in the air that everyone ignores, & doing things the ‘wrong way’

BIRTH ORDER: Usually the second child, sometimes the first boy if an older sister is the Hero
Academically borderline or failing, they drop out, get suspended or kicked out, may not graduate

Family makes them the ‘black sheep’ & then feels ashamed of them. Because they’re the blunt ‘truth-tellers’, one or both parents may dole out harsher & harsher punishments, trying to ‘break’ them for not going along with the program.

They’re compared negatively to older, well-behaved / compliant siblings, sometimes considered ‘mentally ill’, & may be taken to therapy to get ‘fixed’.
Targeted to be Scapegoats, either because they’re:
a type: hyperactive or sick, so are easily bullied, and/OR
b type: the angry, rebellious, problem child who has the guts to say or do what no one else will, & so is easily ‘set off’ / reactive

Personal: IRONY – they are the most sensitive, caring & emotionally honest family member. Scapegoats are actually the strongest ones, since they carry the “sins” for the entire family.
Their sensitivity causes them intense pain when mistreated, making them self-hating & self-destructive. They are the romantic who becomes very cynical & distrustful from being the “target” of the family’s dysfunction. Will leave home as soon as they can

Family : Rebellious (constant trouble with authority, won’t follow directions), They make a lot of noise, diverting attention from the addict & his/her need for Recovery on to themselves. They won’t go along with the Hero who pretends everything’s alright. For a while will try to compete with the Hero for status, but lose & then stop trying to please
Because they have thick walls built around them from fear & outrage, their relationships will often be superficial & inauthentic – except when they can bond with another equally angry, bitter peers.

Often act out in front of others, putting on a tough act. In reaction to the family chaos & abuse, they become the troublemaker – argumentative, attention seekers, blaming others, disruptive, intrusive,  negative leader
AND/OR secretive, sneaky, verbally dishonest, unwilling to take personal responsibility

Defiance, withdrawal, hostility, sullenness, acting out, ‘don’t care’ facade. Strong connection to their peer group (same type) or totally isolated

Inappropriate expression & use of anger, intrusive, won’t follow directions, self-destructive, defiant, irresponsible, underachiever, social & legal problems at young age (truancy, teenage pregnancy, high school dropout, addiction, suicide attempts), can lead others into trouble.

NEXT: Lost Child Role

26 thoughts on “SCAPEGOAT Family Role (Part 1)

      • I am a 1st born daughter and the scapegoat of a very emotionally, manipulated family. My mother I am certain has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I am probably Borderline due to my responses to lifestyle I experienced as a child.

        I am now in my 50’s, my husband was abusive and alcoholic, left me for our 18 year old sitter when he was 42 and I was 35. I was devastated. My mother basically blamed me for the break up. She became friends with the sitter’s family and my children lived with him because they got married and I was single and he was a college professor. I sunk into a deep depression. I became extremely irresponsible, spending money, drinking, refusing to pay child support. I almost went to jail. I tried to commit suicide.

        My parents came to the hospital; my father was concerned about the science aspect (He’s a physician), my mother sat against a wall dressed to the nines reading a book. Nothing was ever said to me and the shunning began. I thought I was an alcoholic and took the blame. I never realized the dynamic of what I was experiencing. My children became distant due to their father’s and step-mother’s coaching. He died and I got custody of the kids. I was struggling as a new teacher.

        I went back to grad school at 40 to get a better job. I made little money. Death benefits were offered to my children and we used them to help with clothing, doctor’s, dentists, food, living expenses. My mother and the step-mother told my oldest daughter I was stealing from them. My daughter became belligerent and she coached and guilted my 16 year old son to move out with her when she graduated high school. My parents came and picked up my children without my knowledge.

        When I contacted an attorney, I was told since my son was 16 he could decide where he wanted to live and it would be pointless to try to go to court; that was 2 years ago.
        I have not seen nor heard from my children in 2 years. My family, my 2 sisters who have been wrapped up as favorites with my mother since childhood, refuse my calls, emails and letters. I have officially be excommunicated. I am trying to deal with my pain in a healthy manner.

        I am still feeling the same pain as I felt as a child. I am angry as hell and trying to forgive them and myself. I wasn’t the perfect parent, I tried to do the best I could. I didn’t have the resources my parents would dangle before my children and I feel worthless. I have been a teacher for 12 years now. I love my job and I am grateful. I see many children who live in situations of dysfunction and my heart breaks for them.

        I just want to find peace and go on with my life. My biggest fear is never seeing my children again. Can anyone suggest some things I can do to avoid falling apart and to learn to love myself because I know in my heart I am a good person. Thanks,
        Lost Soul


      • Dear Lost Soul, you don’t have to stay lost. I’m sorry to hear how much suffering you’ve endured. As you say – healing is the only personal goal worth pursuing.
        Your biological children may come around as they get older, but your focus has to be completely on your own mental & emotional stability. They need a mother with self-esteem & serenity.

        That takes dedication to learning about & connecting with your wounded inner child every day & becoming a part of a healing community. My suggestions are – every day:
        — go to Al-anon meetings in person or phone meeting
        — read one post from my blog & make notes of what comes up
        — if you have a spiritual life – read / meditate / pray / go to services
        — get phone numbers from church & 12-step meeting & make Program calls
        — read recovery books, & do the 2-handed writing with the Inner Child
        — ACoA therapy, if you can manage
        + Any other resources you can find on your own ( that can help you be part of groups that have similar interests can be helpful.


  1. Second born scapegoated daughter here. And I don’t think a scapegoats issue lies in learning to consider others feelings, it’s learning to consider your own! A scapegoat always puts themselves in the back seat and is self defeating in attitude. They never put up defences or boundaries because their family never allowed it.


  2. I’m a first born daughter scapegoat too, and I do have to consider other’s feelings. Now that I am more emotionally aware, I can feel when I am veering (as I see it in myself) narcissistic or borderline (mom was comorbid). Borderline is when I am reacting with an emotional extreme and I likenmore to manifestations of PTSD (triggers and time tunnelling reactions), and the narcissism is when I refuse to listen to someone else, or dismiss them – which I do a lot – a habit born of having to tune my egg donor out constantly during her barrages at me and endless pontifications on utter nonsense. But everyone is different, I was surprised to read that the scapegoat is the second born, I think it can also depend on how close in age the children are, if they are different genders or the same, and who is the most compliant.
    I think defiance is what saved me from being a total loser like my mom needed me to be to feel better about herself. Tho since I’ve been in recovery I have not needed to (narcissistically) inflict my defiance on the world as much – Thanks for this blog.


    • Hi Jaleo, I agree with your points. Any extreme is harmful to us if it’s the only way we function. We do what we can to survive & then work on coming to a balance. Thanx for reading.


    • I relate with what you mention about how your mom needed you to be a total loser. I honestly felt that’s what my mom needed me to be as well. I think she was jealous; always loading me up with chores while golden child brother played with friends (there were only 2 of us in the family). She forbade sleep-overs for me, and she kept getting irritated with my friends the 1 time I had a birthday party with them over. She kept yelling at me and snapping at them, mostly bc my brother didn’t like being out of the spotlight so he kept whining over everything and my mom would pounce on us all for breathing wrong (at my birthday party!). My friends left early, then they stopped speaking to me at school. I became very shy and withdrawn and have remained that way since. My mom wanted me to always be miserable, and she got her way on that for far too long.


      • Hope you have found a way to come out of your shell & prosper. I have! Ultimately I focused on ‘Living well is the best revenge”!


  3. At 43 years old I realized my family was an alcoholic family and I am the scapegoat! Ten years later I am still reeling from the pain and depression of it all. I read this site and go ohhhh and I get it. I am the third child of 6 , Brother, Sister then me and this describes my family too a tee.


    • Thank you for reading. The Scapegoat (as opposed to being scapegoated) acts like the bad / ‘troubled’ child – carrying the sins of the family. Sometimes behind the compulsion to “f–up” is the need to be perfect in order to be worthy of love. As we give up perfectionism (which is an expression of Self-hate) we no longer have to be bad – which we unconsciously use as a stress release from the pressure of needing to be inhumanly good!


  4. Interesting descriptions. Many I identify with and others, totally the opposite. Like anything that describes a subset of people, one has to look at it objectively because one size doesn’t fit all. I thinks it’s important to mention that scapegoats don’t exemplify every point on this list, but some in each category. For example, I am definitely the scapegoat in my family, but was the achiever and perfectionist and kept trying to fly the coop at every opportunity but they have a way of sucking me back in. They criticize my every move and hate for me to be successful and have a life of my own. But when I fall down they just step on me rather than wanting to help. So I run again and again.

    So many of the points above are fitting but the dynamics in my family are so conflicting. It took me 30 years to understand my mom and older half sister (the self imposed matriarch of the family) are both strongly passive-aggressive, which explains a lot. That said, this post was insightful and an eye opener re: my youth especially, although I wouldn’t say my being in trouble all the time had anything to do with intentionally redirecting family garbage in some self sacrificing way! If anything. It shined a lot on what a bunch of lunatics the entire family was/is.


    • Kiki,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Naturally none of us are only one thing – we also bring our own native personality to the mix. You may also have more than one role, as mentioned in the intro &/or act one way inside the family & another outside….


    • Your anger is a very important indicator of what was wrong. I hope you are digging into the deeper layers of sorrow, loneliness & loss, to find the hidden treasure: YOU!


  5. I am truly sorry to hear about how poorly you all were treated and how badly some of you are still being treated. I am so sorry that your children have been brainwashed into believing others lies and manipulation. I am so sorry that you did not receive the love you deserved. Please know now that you are loved by someone even if that person is a complete stranger. I send you my love.

    I am the second born child (girl) of 2, elder sibling is a boy. By definition, he is superior due to his gender – according to my NPD mother. Father deceased and was workaholic so did not see or perhaps did not care what went on. My brother and his wife are alcoholics and my almost T-total mother, like them is very angry. They are all narcissists. Everything I do is wrong in their eyes. My mother conspired with golden boy (brother) from when I was a little girl. They can criticize me and make sniping comments, be totally unreliable but if I respond to their nasty comments or dare to question them in a very nice way, I am immediately attacked and ostracized.

    The latest one is my brother and his wife agreed to visit here for new year with their 4 yr old son. Now they are not coming because my sil bought a Christmas present for him from us on my behalf (I tried several times to find out what she wanted me to buy him but she wanted to control it all and get the cash off me. -NB It would probably have started a row of I didn’t get what she dictated). She agreed to wrap it and keep it for us to give to him at new year when we saw them. She then gave it to him on Christmas Day and I said I was disappointed and wanted to give it face to face and we had talked about this. She sent me an angry text for having a go at her, my brother sent me one too and then she sent one to my husband saying they wouldn’t be coming because they are fed up of me criticizing them.

    This also means my daughter won’t get a Christmas present from them because my sil won’t learn how to buy online – she’s 45 btw – and had agreed to take my daughter shopping because she wanted to buy her something specific for her hobby. These are the people, who regularly shout at me for no reason or for simply asking them nicely to do something like be nice to my 7 yr old daughter, send me awful texts about something I apparently did wrong even if I didn’t (my sil vents her anger she feels toward my mother at me). A couple of years ago, my brother pushed me so hard I fell over because his wife screamed at my mother then left the house and I told my brother he should explain to my daughter they were leaving (and taking her beloved cousin away). He has also threatened to punch me on several occasions, such as when I am collapsing because I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (ME). They all say I’m not actually ill. My mother and my brother complain constantly about their ailments (swolen ankles, a cough, a cold, back pain etc) and I am so positive despite my illness and having chronic all over body pain (Fibromyalgia). Obviously my pain can’t be that bad according to them. Apparently, they are actually ill, unlike me!

    As my daughter gets older and more independent my mother, sil and brother are starting to treat her daughter differently. My brother and his wife have always boasted about their son. They ramble on and on in their alcoholic way about how his speech is advanced, his colouring is advanced, he’s such a patient, lovely boy etc etc. It’s like they’re still adulating him like parents of a new born. They have always treated him as is if the sun shone out of his backside but now my mother, sil and brother all started talking negatively about my 7 year old cherished daughter behind our backs. And I’m not having her made into a scapegoat by association. I am teaching her that unfortunately grandma, uncle mark and aunty Michelle have never learnt all children should be treated the same – as in regardless of if you are their mummy or daddy or someone else’s child.

    Anyway that’s just the latest family drama and I’ve just been let off the hook by my daughter because she no longer cares that much about seeing her lovely little cousin because of the way my sil and brother treat her. And unfortunately he is now becoming more like them even at age 4 and I see I can’t hold onto an aunty role however much I would like. So no alcoholics in my house on the booziest night of the year – yeh!!

    I am sorry to hear some of you have sabotaged yourselves because of how you feel. You are all beautiful. Look in the mirror
    Love Jane


    • It seems that you are taking care of yourself, & I hope you have the same or bigger love for your Inner Child as you have for others.
      Have a great new Year.


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