The Narcissistic Family Dynamic

In a Narcissistic family the roles are reversed and the structure supports the needs of the Narcissist parent rather than the healthy development of children. 

There are various roles a child can play, all are designated by the Narcissist:

The Golden Child

  • The narcissist will find a child to mould in their own image; usually the oldest child but can be the second. It depends on talent, attractiveness, ability, intelligence whatever the narcissist holds in high regard.
  • The golden child grows up believing they are special and better that the others when in fact, they have simply been groomed in the narcissist’s image. 
  • This can look like the best role to have but in reality, it is a lot of pressure to live up to this image.

The Scape Goat

  • The narcissist needs somebody to dump their frustration and rage on. The second oldest or the most outspoken child will often be designated as the ‘problem’ child and be put down severely at any chance.
  • Other children in the family may follow the narcissist’s lead and unwittingly dump their rage and shame on the scapegoat.
  • The scape goat carries the burdens of the family.

The Caretaker

  • The caretaker tends to the basic needs of the Narcissist and helps put on a happy front, while making excuses for the narcissist. They want the narcissist’s approval and acceptance, which they only have a chance of getting if they play nice.
  • When the caretaker is not actively helping the narcissist, they are expected to remain by their side. This helps the narcissist maintain a feeling of grandiosity and control.
  • The caretaker can often care for the other parent being victimised by the narcissist, to keep the peace within the family dynamic.

The Lost Child

  • Any children who have not been given the role of golden child or scapegoat will be neglected and encouraged not to rock the boat. They grow up with a sense of not knowing who they are or how they fit in the world, as well as a burning feeling of shame and inferiority.
  • They are invisible within the family; just trying to be quiet and not noticed so as not to cause trouble.

The Mascot

  • Usually the youngest child. They are the joker of the family, providing comedy relief that masks the dysfunction of the family.
  • Bringing humour is a light relief to the toxic nature of the family environment can appear fun, but the Mascot also knows they have a serious role to play to minimise conflict.

The Sick Child

The sick child is the child always seems to have something wrong with them. This can give the non-narcissistic parent a goal to focus on or being sick can lessen the abuse that the child receives directly from the narcissist.