The 6 Survival Strategies used by Narcissistic Family Scapegoats

There is always one child in every narcissistic family who is scapegoated. They are targeted for abuse by the parents and other siblings, and often bear the brunt of the family’s problems. How do these scapegoats cope and what survival strategies do they use to survive the chaos and dysfunction of the narcissistic family they had the misfortune of being born in?

How is the scapegoat chosen?

The narcissist typically chooses the scapegoat child very early on in the family’s development. The scapegoat may be shy and withdrawn, or they may be more outgoing and creative. Whatever makes them stand out from the others is likely to earn them the label of “different” or “weird.” The narcissist will then use this difference to start picking on the child and making them feel like they don’t belong.

The scapegoat often feels like they are constantly walking on eggshells, never quite sure what will set the narcissistic parent off. They learn to suppress their own needs and desires in order to try and please the parent, but it is never enough. The scapegoat child grows up feeling worthless and undeserving of love or attention.

Survival Strategies used by Narcissistic Family Scapegoats

There are several survival strategies and coping mechanisms that can be adopted by narcissistic family scapegoats in order to survive their chaotic and abusive surroundings.

A scapegoat may use one or more of these strategies at the same time. They could also switch if circumstances in the family change, or if they realise that their current approach is not working.

All of these coping strategies have one thing in common: they are all attempts to deal with the pain of being rejected and unloved by the family.

The Problem Solver

The problem solver is the scapegoat who tries to please everyone and make everyone happy. They become the peacemaker in the family, always trying to diffuse arguments and keep the peace. On the surface, they may seem like the perfect child. But underneath, they are dealing with a lot of pain.

When they grow up, problem solver scapegoats often attract toxic partners who take advantage of their need to please. They may find themselves in abusive relationships or always being the one who has to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their partner.

The Overachiever

The overachiever is the scapegoat who tries to prove their worth through their achievements. They may get straight A’s in school, or be the captain of the soccer team. They are always striving for perfection, but it is never enough. The overachiever is driven by a need to be loved and accepted, but they will never feel good enough.

This feeling follows them into adulthood , and they may find themselves in a constant state of anxiety. They may also have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships, as they are always trying to prove their worth to others.

The Protector

The protector is the scapegoat who takes on the role of caring for the other members of the family. They may be the one who comforts their siblings when they are upset, or the one who stands up to the narcissistic parent. The protector is always looking out for others, but they often forget to take care of themselves.

Protector scapegoats often grow up to be caretakers. They may find themselves in codependent relationships where they are always taking care of their partner, or they may become a parent at a young age. They may have difficulty saying no to others and often put the needs of others before their own.

The Rebel

The rebel is the scapegoat who fights back against everything the family stands for. They may be disruptive, rebellious, and aggressive. They are the ones who get into trouble at school or at home. As they get older they may drink, do drugs, or get into trouble with the law. They are angry and resentful at being treated like a second-class citizen in their own family. But underneath their tough exterior, they are usually hurting and looking for attention.

When they grow up, rebel scapegoats often find themselves in unhealthy and destructive relationships. They may have a history of substance abuse or mental health issues. Without help, they may continue to spiral downwards and end up in a life of crime or addiction.

The Lost Child

The lost child is the scapegoat who disappears into their own world. They are quiet and withdrawn, and they internalize all of the pain and trauma. As a result they are often depressed or anxious. As they get older they may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. Or they may simply withdraw from the world and build a wall around themselves.

As adults, lost children often find it difficult to connect with others. They may have trouble forming close relationships or they may become reclusive. Without help, they may continue to self-destruct and end up in a downward spiral of depression and addiction.

The Defeated

The defeated scapegoat is the one who has given up. They may have been rejected so many times that they no longer believe they are worth fighting for. The abuse and neglect that they have suffered makes them feel like they are worthless. As a result they become apathetic and resigned to their fate.

Defeated scapegoats become adults who have low self-esteem and little confidence. They cannot see that it is possible to heal from the trauma they suffered as children, so they do not even try.

What does the future hold for these children?

The future is often uncertain for narcissistic family scapegoats, because the survival strategies that they used in childhood follow them into adulthood. As a result, they may continue to struggle with the same issues they had as children. Without help, they may end up in unhealthy or even abusive relationships. They may also struggle with addiction or mental health issues. But with help, they can learn to cope with their past and build a better future for themselves.

In fact, of all the members of the family, the scapegoat is the one who has the highest chance of breaking free from the toxic legacy of their narcissistic parent. They are the ones who are most likely to seek help and make positive changes in their lives. So if you are a scapegoat, know that you are not alone. And know that there is hope for a better future.

You might also want to check out the following posts about the impact of childhood distress and trauma on children:

And finally, this is my story. I was the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic father.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. When you use one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me. At no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission, which helps me run this blog and keep my in-depth content free of charge for all my readers.

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