How Does a Narcissistic Mother Choose a Scapegoat
How Does a Narcissistic Mother Choose a Scapegoat

Narcissistic mothers, as a topic in psychology and family dynamics, have garnered increasing attention over the years. Understanding how these individuals choose a scapegoat within their family unit is essential to grasp the intricacies of such toxic relationships. In this article, we’ll delve deep into the complex dynamics of narcissistic mothers and their selection of scapegoats.

We’ll explore the key characteristics of narcissism, the role of scapegoats in the family dynamic, and most importantly, how a narcissistic mother chooses her scapegoat. By shedding light on this challenging subject, we hope to offer insight, support, and healing for those affected by these emotionally demanding situations. So, let’s begin our journey into the world of narcissistic parenting.

Understanding the Narcissistic Mother

To explore how a narcissistic mother selects a scapegoat within the family dynamic, it’s essential to begin by gaining a thorough understanding of what narcissism entails. Additionally, we must recognize the key characteristics that define a narcissistic mother, as this knowledge provides valuable context for our examination.

Defining Narcissism

Narcissism, at its core, is a personality trait or disorder characterized by an excessive preoccupation with oneself. Those with narcissistic tendencies demonstrate a remarkable lack of empathy for others and an insatiable need for admiration and validation. While a healthy dose of self-love is essential for personal growth, narcissistic individuals take self-absorption to an unhealthy extreme, often at the expense of their relationships, including those with their own children.

Key Characteristics of a Narcissistic Mother

Identifying a narcissistic mother and understanding the mechanisms behind her selection of a scapegoat requires a keen awareness of the following key characteristics:

Toxic Favoritism

Narcissistic mothers often exhibit favoritism, but it manifests differently from the typical parental favoritism we might expect. Instead of consistently favoring one child over others, they may alternately shift their preferences. This erratic behavior creates confusion and rivalry among their offspring, as they never know who will be in the narcissistic mother’s good graces at any given moment.

Manipulative Control

Narcissistic mothers are masters of manipulation. They employ emotional blackmail, guilt-tripping, or other psychological tactics to assert control over their children’s actions and emotions. This manipulation leaves children feeling powerless and ensnared in a web of emotional complexity.

Critical and Judgmental

Narcissistic mothers have a tendency to be excessively critical and judgmental toward their children. They subject their offspring to harsh criticism and judgment, consistently undermining their self-esteem and confidence. The constant disapproval creates an emotionally toxic environment that hinders a child’s emotional growth.

Emotionally Unavailable

Emotional neglect is a hallmark of narcissistic mothers. They are emotionally unavailable and incapable of providing the emotional support and nurturing that children need for healthy development. This emotional void can have profound and lasting effects on a child’s well-being.

Demand for Validation

These mothers have an insatiable demand for validation and admiration from their children. They expect their offspring to meet their emotional needs at all times, making it incredibly challenging for kids to express their own needs and desires. This one-sided dynamic prevents children from developing a healthy sense of self and autonomy.


Narcissistic mothers often involve their children in conflicts or disputes with other family members. They use this manipulative tactic known as triangulation, pitting family members against each other to create a sense of rivalry and chaos. This not only damages sibling relationships but also further entangles children in the web of dysfunction.

Projection of Unresolved Issues

A common behavior among narcissistic mothers is the projection of their own insecurities and unresolved issues onto their children. They blame their offspring for their own shortcomings and failures, causing children to carry the burden of their mother’s unresolved emotional baggage.

Understanding these characteristics serves as the foundation for comprehending how narcissistic mothers select their scapegoats within the family dynamic. In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into the critical role of scapegoats in such families and explore the multitude of ways in which they are affected by this challenging position.

The Role of Scapegoats in a Narcissistic Family Dynamic

Now that we’ve established an understanding of narcissistic mothers and their key characteristics, it’s time to delve into the pivotal role of scapegoats within the complex dynamics of a narcissistic family. Scapegoats play a multifaceted role that goes far beyond the surface, and it’s essential to explore these aspects comprehensively.

#1. Blame Absorber

Scapegoats often find themselves absorbing the blame for the family’s dysfunction. This role involves shouldering responsibility for any problems within the family unit, even when they bear no actual fault. The narcissistic mother uses them as a convenient scapegoat to deflect blame and evade accountability for her own actions and behaviors.

#2. Distractor from the Real Issues

One of the primary functions of the scapegoat is to serve as a distraction from the family’s genuine issues. By constantly focusing on the scapegoat’s supposed shortcomings and wrongdoings, the narcissistic mother effectively redirects the family’s attention away from addressing the actual problems within the household. This tactic allows her to maintain control and avoid confronting her own behaviors and shortcomings.

#3. Projection Target

Scapegoats become the canvas upon which the narcissistic mother projects her own insecurities, inadequacies, and negative emotions. Whatever the mother dislikes about herself or cannot accept is projected onto the scapegoat, intensifying their burden. For example, if the mother struggles with feelings of inadequacy, she may consistently accuse the scapegoat of being “incompetent” or “lazy.”

#4. Undermined Self-Esteem

Constantly subjected to criticism, judgment, and blame, scapegoats experience a profound erosion of their self-esteem. The relentless barrage of negative messages takes a toll on their self-worth, causing them to internalize the damaging beliefs imposed upon them. Over time, they may come to believe that they are truly the problem, even when this is far from reality.

#5. Isolation

Scapegoats often feel isolated within the family unit. They are made to believe that they are the source of discord and turmoil, leading to a pervasive sense of alienation. This sense of isolation can persist into adulthood, affecting their ability to form healthy relationships outside the family. Scapegoats may struggle with trust and have difficulty opening up to others due to their experiences of betrayal within their own family.

#6. Differential Treatment

In a narcissistic family, the scapegoat receives differential treatment compared to their siblings. They are subjected to stricter rules, harsher punishments, and fewer privileges, all of which reinforce their outsider status. This differential treatment is a deliberate tactic used by the narcissistic mother to further isolate and control the scapegoat.

#7. Boundary Violations

Narcissistic mothers frequently violate the boundaries of their scapegoat children. They may invade their privacy, disregard their autonomy, or impose unrealistic expectations. These boundary violations further erode the scapegoat’s sense of self and personal boundaries. As a result, they may struggle with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in their adult relationships.

#8. Gaslighting

Gaslighting, a manipulative tactic used to make someone doubt their own reality, is a common experience for scapegoats. The narcissistic mother may deny her mistreatment, rewrite history, or insist that the scapegoat is overly sensitive or delusional. This gaslighting leaves the scapegoat questioning their own perceptions and reality, contributing to their feelings of confusion and self-doubt.

#9. Parentification

Scapegoats may also be subject to parentification, a process where they are forced to take on adult roles and responsibilities from a young age. This premature burden can hinder their emotional and psychological development, as they are deprived of the opportunity to experience a normal childhood. Parentification can lead to feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy in adulthood.

#10. Rebellion or Withdrawal

In response to the immense pressure and injustice they face, scapegoats may react in different ways. Some may rebel against the family’s expectations, engaging in acts of defiance as a way to assert their independence and individuality. Others may withdraw, becoming emotionally distant as a means of self-preservation. These coping mechanisms can have long-lasting effects on their relationships and emotional well-being.

#11. Health and Mental Health Effects

The cumulative effects of being a scapegoat in a narcissistic family can take a toll on one’s physical and mental health. Scapegoats often struggle with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and even physical health issues such as chronic stress-related conditions. The emotional and psychological scars from their upbringing can impact their overall well-being for years to come.

#12. Cycle of Dysfunction

Unfortunately, the cycle of dysfunction often continues into the next generation. Scapegoats who become parents may unknowingly perpetuate some of the unhealthy patterns they experienced in their own upbringing. Without intervention and healing, the cycle of narcissistic family dynamics can persist, affecting multiple generations.

Understanding the myriad ways in which scapegoats are affected by their role in a narcissistic family dynamic is crucial for both personal healing and breaking free from these toxic patterns. In the following section, we will unravel the intricate process of how a narcissistic mother selects her scapegoat, shedding light on the underlying motivations and mechanisms involved.

How Does a Narcissistic Mother Choose a Scapegoat

Now that we’ve explored the role of scapegoats in a narcissistic family dynamic, it’s time to delve into the intricate process of how a narcissistic mother selects her scapegoat. Understanding the underlying motivations and mechanisms involved is crucial to shedding light on this complex issue.

#1. Vulnerability

One of the key factors that can lead a narcissistic mother to choose a particular child as the scapegoat is vulnerability. Children who exhibit traits of emotional sensitivity, introversion, or have their own struggles may be seen as easier targets. The narcissistic mother may exploit their vulnerability, viewing it as an opportunity for control and manipulation. For instance, a child who is naturally more timid or anxious might be singled out because their emotional reactions are more pronounced and, in the mother’s eyes, easier to manipulate.

#2. Independence or Non-Compliance

Another trigger for becoming the scapegoat is a child’s display of independence or non-compliance with the narcissistic mother’s demands. These children may assert their own preferences or challenge the mother’s authority, which threatens her need for absolute control. In response, she may single them out for blame and criticism as a way to regain control and reinforce her dominance.

#3. Contrast to Idealized Sibling

Narcissistic mothers often have idealized images of some of their children while devaluing others. If the scapegoat presents a stark contrast to the idealized sibling (often referred to as the golden child), they may be chosen as the target. This sharp contrast reinforces the mother’s perception of the scapegoat as the source of problems within the family. For instance, if the golden child is perceived as highly accomplished and obedient, the scapegoat, who may have different interests or personalities, is unfairly cast in a negative light.

#4. Similar Traits to the Narcissistic Mother (Paradoxically)

Interestingly, a child who possesses similar traits or qualities to the narcissistic mother may also become the scapegoat. Paradoxically, the mother may view these shared traits as a challenge to her own dominance and uniqueness, leading her to target the child as a means of asserting her superiority. For example, if the mother sees herself as the “star” of the family, a child who exhibits charisma or leadership qualities may be viewed as a threat to her position.

#5. Threat to the Narcissistic Mother’s Image

Narcissistic mothers are obsessed with maintaining a flawless image in the eyes of others. If a child’s behavior or actions are perceived as a threat to this carefully constructed image, they may become the scapegoat. The mother will go to great lengths to protect her self-image, even at the expense of her child’s well-being. For instance, if a child’s rebellious behavior becomes known in the community, the mother may target them to divert attention away from herself and save face.

#6. Refusal to Enable or Support the Narcissistic Mother’s Ego

Scapegoats often refuse to enable or support the narcissistic mother’s ego. They may challenge her unrealistic demands, question her authority, or resist playing the role assigned to them within the family dynamic. This resistance threatens the mother’s sense of control and superiority, making the child a prime target for blame and criticism. For instance, if the mother expects unwavering loyalty and the scapegoat openly questions her decisions, it can lead to retaliation and scapegoating.

#7. Random Selection

In some cases, the selection of a scapegoat may appear random or arbitrary. The narcissistic mother may simply fixate on one child without a clear reason, leaving the child bewildered and traumatized. This seemingly random selection can be especially challenging for the scapegoat to understand or accept, as they may struggle to identify any specific traits or actions that have led to their scapegoat status.

#8. Projection of Unresolved Issues

The narcissistic mother often projects her own unresolved issues onto her children. If she has unresolved conflicts, insecurities, or unhealed trauma from her own past, she may choose a scapegoat who becomes a receptacle for her projected emotions and problems. For instance, if the mother has unresolved issues with authority figures, she may unconsciously target a child who challenges her authority.

#9. Lack of Empathy or Understanding

Narcissistic mothers lack empathy and a deep understanding of their children’s individual needs and emotions. This inability to connect with their offspring on an emotional level can lead them to dismiss their child’s feelings and concerns, further alienating the child and solidifying their scapegoat status. For example, if a child expresses their emotional needs, the mother may respond with indifference or irritation, making the child feel unheard and invalidated.

#10. Desire for Control

Ultimately, the selection of a scapegoat is driven by the narcissistic mother’s insatiable desire for control and validation. They see their children as extensions of themselves and will stop at nothing to ensure that their needs and ego are prioritized above all else. This relentless pursuit of control often comes at the expense of the scapegoat’s well-being and emotional health.

Closing Thoughts

Understanding the dynamics of a narcissistic mother and her selection of a scapegoat is a vital step in breaking free from the chains of a toxic family environment. It’s essential to remember that being the scapegoat is not a reflection of the child’s worth, but rather a consequence of the mother’s psychological issues.

Healing from the scars of being a scapegoat takes time, self-compassion, and often professional support. Breaking the cycle of dysfunction and striving for healthier relationships is a courageous journey worth embarking on. By shedding light on this challenging topic, we hope to provide insight, validation, and a path towards healing for those affected by these emotionally demanding situations.