A Detailed Guide On Family Scapegoat Syndrome

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Our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students.


Family scapegoat syndrome was one undiscovered mental health condition that came into the forefront in the last decade and shook the world to the core.

A famous Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, once wrote,

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its way.” 

And the past few years showed why this quote had such great meaning to it. Dysfunction in a family, especially in these modern times, has been a common occurrence. However,  the sharp edges of the disorder affect each member differently.

Each of them carries the pain with them throughout their life. And nowhere is the pain more evident than in the case of the person who has been affected by the family scapegoat syndrome.

Curious to know more about the family scapegoat syndrome? Please read the article then as we present to you all the details of the syndrome.

A Detailed Guide On Family Scapegoat Syndrome

family scapegoat syndrome
Image source: freepik

A. What do we mean by the family scapegoat syndrome? 

If defined in simple words, a scapegoat refers to a person who is blamed for all the wrongdoings, mistakes, and faults of others. The origin of the word refers to an ancient Jewish tradition where a goat symbolically was sent into the wilderness to atone other people’s sins.

Needless to say, the blaming creates a drastic mental impact upon the person. The damage increases tenfold when scapegoating occurs within a family unit where we usually learn to love and trust others.

B. Causes of family scapegoat syndrome

  • Presence of a greater, pervasive problem in the family that becomes difficult to solve. Therefore, scapegoating someone for the problems helps in creating a false distraction. 
  • Scapegoating is a method that is used by a narcissistic family or by a covert narcissistic mother/father. They do not want to acknowledge their problems and blame their child so that attention can be deflected from the main issues. 
  • Parents who themselves are traumatized by certain chronic mental health conditions, especially from a narcissistic personality disorder. 
  • Scapegoating is used as a form of defense mechanism stemming from personal insecurities. 

Sometimes, it has also been found that scapegoating has been very unintentional and when parents come to terms with the effects of their abuse, they have been visibly shocked. But this is just an example of an extremely rare case.

C. Symptoms of family scapegoat syndrome

One of the biggest reasons for the syndrome to be unattended for the longest time was because the affected failed to understand the abuse they were suffering from.

However, with increased knowledge, people are becoming more aware of the situation.

For any person reading this article, listed below are some of the family scapegoat syndrome symptoms that can help you assess your family situation:

1. Always ignored

If you are the family scapegoat, then you can be the most ignored member of your family. The scapegoat is often the most sensitive member of the family. They become the whistleblower when it comes to obvious dysfunctional family dynamics. 

That is one of the main reasons why family members never want you to speak up. If the scapegoat child still speaks up, family members can even go to extreme conditions to discredit the sufferer. 

2. Never recognized for the hard work

In a family with healthy relationships, family members feel proud of each other’s achievements. However, the flipside occurs in a dysfunctional family.

If you are not the golden child, your achievements will always be belittled or dismissed.

family scapegoat syndrome
Image source: freepik

The scapegoated children might at a point in time give up on trying to succeed in anything. The lifetime of discouragement usually takes a toll on them. This leads to low self-esteem and crippling self-doubt. 

3. Portrayed in a negative light in front of others

The affected are often showcased in a negative light in front of others.

For a person who is a family scapegoat, they are publicly attacked at any given opportunity. This helps the members to showcase their worthlessness in front of others. 

4. Isolated from others

Family members do not want their scapegoats to receive support or encouragement from any outside source. Therefore, they can do whatever to separate the person from their friends or loved ones.

Separating the sufferer by physical or emotional means is a common occurrence. They often stoop down to attack the characters of the friends and outsiders to help you try to seek help from. They can even spread rumors about you among them too. 

5. You become the family’s punching bag

A person affected by family scapegoat syndrome might notice that they always become the family’s punching bag. The person becomes the butt of every joke. You can also always be singled out for collective ridicule from your family members.

pexels monstera 7114755
Photo by Monstera from Pexels

The flaws of others might be reflected upon you. Instead of admitting their faults, your family member lashes upon you for a mistake that you never committed. 

D. How to overcome family scapegoat syndrome? 

It will be extremely difficult for a person who has grown as a family scapegoat to overcome the shortcomings. However, proper counseling and patience can help you to heal from the situation effectively.

1. The first stage of recovery is to learn the truth about yourself. We can understand that years of ridicule create a great impact on your mental health.

However, it is essential to remember that it is only the narrative of your family members. It is what makes your character appear flawed even when it is not your fault. 

2. Now, coming to another important step, forgiving the flaws of your family members.

We know that forgiving the people who have made your life a living hell is not an easy task. But do you know that forgiveness takes courage, and those who can master it, are courageous of all? Take your time. A little compassion can help you to let go of your destructive anger. 

3. And finally, show some love to yourself. As you heal from your traumatic experiences, try to love yourself as you are. 

Years of scapegoating lead to low self-esteem. It creates a false negative image in front of yourself. Breakthrough this illusion slowly and steadily. Try to replace the negative thoughts with acceptance, kindness, and compassion. 

family scapegoat syndrome
Image source: freepik

Hopefully, the article was able to shed some light on family scapegoat syndrome and was able to solve your queries.

For a person reading this article, if you know someone suffering through similar conditions or under the same turmoil yourself, contact a mental health advisor immediately because it is okay to reach out for help.

Our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. -----------------------------------

Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.



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