Characteristics of the family scapegoat

In this blog post, we will look at the signs and characteristics of the family scapegoat, effects of being a family scapegoat, trauma related to being a family scapegoat, how to deal with being a scapegoat, and characteristics of a dysfunctional family. 

What are the characteristics of a family scapegoat? 

A few strong characteristics of a family scapegoat are: 

  • Strong-willed
  • Empathic
  • Justice-seeking
  • Internalizes blame
  • Emotionally reactive
  • Highly sensitive
  •  Protective of others
  • Questions authority
  •  Care-taking
  • “Different” in some way

A family scapegoat is a person who is shamed, blamed, and criticized for everything that goes wrong in a family the opposite of the scapegoat is the golden child.  It usually starts with one or both parents, who tell the child that he or she can do nothing right in the world. With time, other family members join the pattern, which contributes to developing certain psychological and mental problems in the child.

Signs You Are The Family Scapegoat

Are you being abused by a parent, sibling, or another relative which still continues to this day? Are your relationships within your family basically one-way with you doing all of the giving and the others doing all of the taking? Are there family secrets kept from you? Are you always taking care of others while your own needs are being ignored? If yes, you seem to the scapegoat of your family. 

Following are some signs that you are the family scapegoat. 

You Are Ignored

If you’re the family scapegoat, no one in the family wants to hear what you have to say. That’s because a scapegoat is often the most sensitive member of the family, and frequently the whistleblower when it comes to obvious dysfunction. When you persist in speaking your truth, you find that your family members do everything they can to discredit you. They may even go so far as to humiliate you in front of others. That’s because they are unable to accept the fact that anything you say might be true.

You’re Not Praised Very Often

In a healthy family, members feel proud of each other’s achievements. But if you’re the family scapegoat, you may find that your achievements are dismissed or belittled. The idea that you can be successful contradicts their entire narrative of your incompetence. You may come to the realization that you have never once been praised or complimented for anything by anyone. This can lead to a lifetime of low self-esteem and crippling self-doubt.

You Are Portrayed In A Negative Light To Others

It’s bad enough that you have to hear the insults and disparaging comments. But it’s even worse when they are shared with people outside the family unit, too. If you’re the family scapegoat, you find that your character is publicly attacked at every opportunity. Your family wants to convince others of your worthlessness so that they don’t have to take responsibility for any of the dysfunction. No one will ever hear about your positive qualities or successes – only your flaws and failures.

You Are Isolated From Others

Your narcissistic family does not want you to receive any support or encouragement from outside the family unit. They will do whatever they can to isolate you from friends and loved ones. They will begin by separating you physically from your support system. Then they will separate you emotionally by creating conflict and spreading rumors. They may attack the character of your friends or loved ones to make it less likely that you will seek out their support.

The Flaws Of Others Are Projected Unto You

Let’s say your mother has a bad day, and as a result, she forgets to take your brother to a doctor’s appointment. She also forgets to pick up milk at the store. Instead of admitting her forgetfulness, she lashes out at you. She tells you that you are lazy and disorganized that you never remember to do anything.

A scapegoat can be strong enough to come out of this loop without being wounded or may completely lose himself because of a dysfunctional family. 

Effects of being a family scapegoat 

Now that we have seen the signs and characteristics of a family scapegoat, in this section, we will look at the ill effects of being a family scapegoat. 

  • They feel like they are the family outcast.
  • Their achievements are constantly belittled, shamed, looked down upon, or made fun of by their family members.
  • This person is self-critical and feels uncomfortable when someone compliments them.
  • This person suffers from low self-esteem and self-love.
  • He or she lives in fear, guilt, and does not know how to process his/her emotions well.
  • They cannot and will not tolerate unfairness and injustice in personal and professional life.

Can Family Scapegoating Abuse Lead to Complex Trauma?

Yes. an observation is made that family scapegoats are diagnosed with one or more of the disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Agoraphobia. Others may be diagnosed with a personality disorder (Borderline Personality Disorder, especially), or an attachment disorder. In addition to this many families scapegoating abuse survivors are suffering from symptoms of undiagnosed, untreated Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). 

How to deal with family scapegoating 

It is not easy to be scapegoated by your own family. The idea that people who ought to live you and care for you can ignore you or ill-treat you is the scariest thing ever. However, as individuals, we need to remember that we need to come to our own rescue. If you are a scapegoat and match the above mentioned characteristics of a family scapegoat then here are a few things you can do to deal with it. 

Go back to your past

Realize that the troubling voice in your head, the one that tells you that you aren’t good enough isn’t yours, to begin with. It was put inside your head by other people—ones, who should have cared about you but sadly, did the opposite. Try not to listen to this voice. 

Recognize your feelings

These include shame, guilt, unhappiness, sadness. Understand where they came from originally. Understand that you had become a dumping ground for the emotional energy of other people. Understand this and start looking at yourself from a place of love.

Recognize the good in you

Once you recognize your feelings and the source of them, you will see who you are. Once you get that, you will slowly start pointing the good things about yourself. When you start focusing on the good things about yourself, you will start having positive thoughts about yourself.

Move on

Do not expect any of your family members to apologize to you for their past behavior. Some of them are not even aware of the fact that they did some irreversible damage to you. Understand that they don’t have to apologize to you for you to forgive them. Just forgive them and move on with your life.

Focus on becoming your greatest version

This is the best way to get over every pain, hurt, disappointment, and related emotions. Leave the victim mentality. Focus on your strengths and make the best out of them. Remember, the sky is the limit. 

Characteristics of a dysfunctional family

There are six common characteristics of a dysfunctional family, and they include the following.

A Controlling Parent. 

In the structure of a dysfunctional family, one or more parents are very controlling of their children. These parents do not see their children as separate entities and have blurred lines between their kids and themselves. The parents in a dysfunctional home will not acknowledge their children’s need for privacy. The result is children growing into adulthood without confidence in themselves and cannot excel in anything they do.

Poor Communication 

Having a family where one can discuss anything and everything is vital. Dysfunctional families cannot listen to one another, so each member of the family feels misunderstood and that their needs are not being acknowledged. They will often talk among themselves about another member rather than talking directly to that person. Resulting in children exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior, have anxiety, and not being able to trust others.

A Perfectionist in the Family. 

Dysfunctional families contain one or more parents who are perfectionists. These parents have incredibly high expectations for their children. They will not accept any failure on the part of their kids. Unfortunately, perfectionism causes a steady stream of negative messages about the children, and they grow up feeling inadequate.

There is a Lack of Empathy.

 One of the most distinctive characteristics of a dysfunctional family is a lack of empathy. The parents do not show their children unconditional love and act judgmentally towards their kids. Instead of trying to understand the feelings of their children, these parents use anger and guilt to control their children. This results in the children growing up with internalized negative messages about themselves.

Disproportionate Criticism. 

Verbal abuse in the form of criticism is nearly impossible to overcome. Parents in dysfunctional families will criticize their children’s intelligence, talents, or value using putdowns and teasing to drive their abuse home. Ongoing criticism from these parents negatively impacts their children’s self-image and self-esteem.

It is rather very important to have a good family as it can decide the future of the children. Having loved by parents is the most vital part of childhood. 


In this blog post, we have looked at the signs and characteristics of the family scapegoat, effects of being a family scapegoat, trauma related to being a family scapegoat, how to deal with being a scapegoat, and characteristics of a dysfunctional family. 

FAQs: Characteristics of the family scapegoat

What happens when the scapegoat leaves the family?

The other family members may turn on one another as the tension increases or someone else will be assigned the role. 

Why do parents scapegoat a child?

Scapegoating is one way of exerting control since the other children in the family become highly motivated to please their parent in whatever way they can—and serves to keep the attention on the narcissistic parent which is precisely what he or she wants.

Do parents have favorites?

According to research, deep down, the majority of parents do have a favorite child. Although this certainly doesn’t mean showing favoritism is okay, even if you feel drawn to one child more than the rest. Research shows favoritism can have lasting damage on kids.

What is a narcissistic family?

In simple terms, a narcissistic family is one in which the needs of the parents are the focus and the children are expected in various ways to meet those needs. The healthy family model is turned on its head to support the parents rather than foster the children’s development.



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