Were you blamed for almost everything when you grew up? If so, you could possibly have been the family scapegoat.

The family scapegoat is the portion of the dysfunctional family that takes the brunt of every situation.

No matter what happened, even if the situation could not possibly be any fault of the scapegoat, this designated person still receives a portion of the blame. It’s not entirely clear as to why they receive such blame, but this treatment can be devastating later in life.

Were you the family scapegoat?

The dysfunctional family must keep their image unmarred. This is why they choose certain members of the family to take the blame for any problems that arise.

There’s no way these dysfunctional dominant family members will allow responsibilities to be allocated in the right way. It’s about covering flaws to the point of ridiculous measures.

Were you the scapegoat in your family? Read on and learn the truth.

1. You were ignored

If you were part of a dysfunctional family, then you may have noticed how no one wanted to listen to you. Unfortunately, that may mean you were the scapegoat in the family. If most of the blame was placed on you, then you were ignored when trying to set things right. This is simply because your truth destroyed their illusion.

2. You don’t recall being praised

It’s sad to think about it, but scapegoats come to a realization that they cannot remember being complimented. Considering most people remember receiving compliments occasionally, the scapegoat lives a dismal life of self-doubt.

The family scapegoat wasn’t complimented as a child because this would contradict their flawed and always responsible position in the family.

3. They say you should change

Honestly, everyone can change for the better in some way, but as for the family scapegoat, they’re expected to make changes every day. Dysfunctional families, after designating the scapegoat, will dish out lengthy reasons for a change.

Of course, this change always falls on the scapegoat. When changes aren’t made, it’s just more reason to blame them for everything that happens.

4. You are the butt of the joke

Have you ever been to a family function where the same person always got picked on? Well, congratulations, you just discovered the family scapegoat.

This designated member of the family is teased and tormented at all family functions if not every single day. It’s amazing just how much abuse this person can take.

Later in life, the scapegoat will struggle with fierce self-esteem issues.

5. You were isolated

Just as you were being ignored, you were also being isolated. No, the goal was not to isolate you from all of the family, but just the one person who took up for you. The dysfunctional family which requires a scapegoat for existence will never let the scapegoat find their worth.

This is what happens when someone steps in and takes the scapegoat’s side in any given situation. As the scapegoat starts to feel better about themselves, the family will quickly isolate them from their ally and put the scapegoat back in their place.

If you can visualize someone firmly placing their foot on someone else’s neck, then you correctly visualize what it’s like for the scapegoat.

6. You were demonized

If you think the insults vaulted toward you in your presence were bad, then the insults behind your back were even worse. Dysfunctional families will not only attempt to convince you of your negative character, but they will also try to convince others of the same things.

This was done to further enforce isolation from other people who may have taken your side.

7. You are the victim of projection

Here’s an absolutely crazy situation for the scapegoat. Say, you were the scapegoat and you were doing housework, and suddenly the scapegoater, who was sitting around looking at their phone, entered the scene and accused you of being lazy…do you see how insane this sounds?

Well, this happens often. Scapegoats are often accused of doing things that the other members of the family are doing. It doesn’t matter how blatant the accusations are, the scapegoat will always be the one who has to absorb the criticism.

8. You became the punching bag

No matter what you do, or who’s around, you were the punching bag. All the other members of the family also labeled you as the one who’s wrong, mean, unfair, and dysfunctional.

When people came around, your family members warned them about your behavior and told them to stay away from you.

I am sure you’ve heard the warnings about certain family members from friends or in-laws, haven’t you? It’s possible that you’re hearing about the scapegoat. You may also start to realize that you’re always steered away from this person. Interesting, isn’t it?

Is there hope for the adult victim of scapegoating?

It’s sad to hear these things about the scapegoating process. Fortunately, it is possible to heal from this horrendous abuse. Healing from such treatment first takes realizing the fault in your childhood image.

You must understand that the things said about you were not true. When you make this realization, you can start to build yourself up with positive reinforcement.

If you were a victim of scapegoating, then there is hope. Finding your true identity after abuse of this form is hard but beneficial to a full healthy life. Were you the family scapegoat? If so, it’s time to throw away the old you and find the person you were always meant to be.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://www.thoughtco.com

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This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Leslie

    Thanks for your article Sherrie. I just wanted to remark that sometimes being a scapegoat can be subtle as it was for me.

    It was points 1 & 2 which brought it home for me… no one wanted to listen to you… cannot remember being complimented: Not being listened to = no one mirroring you back = invalidation of your authentic self. As to compliments, sometimes you are told compliments but they are never something good about your character. It is instead about how good looking they think you are or other superficial stuff. Another telltale is when they tell you stories about how weird it was when you did such and such as a baby/child but your sibling doesn’t have the same sort of stories told about them.

    1. Sherrie

      You may have been the scapegoat, Leslie. However, the most important thing for you to do is remember who you are despite what your family says about you. It can be hard to do, but it’s the most beneficial thing for your self-esteem.

    2. Gentian

      I feel so alone in the world, isolated could you start a scape goated people site, where we can find each other and start new healthy families? im a hand sewing artist in alaska, using a technique i invented- to make museum quality art, while getting a divorce from a covert narcissist /30 year deception marriage i have two kinds of dyslexia had complicated grief for three =years im scape coated ostracized by my entire family lost my beautiful daughter who hates me only my son sees through the crazy making am dignoised with ptsd and general anxiety disorder but i know its social anxiety disorder instead, im extremely creative have built uniquely beautiful gardens out of thousands of pounds of stones i gathered in the wilds, im building majestic wooden trojan goat bed room huts for a BNB and my home is a viking inspired live in folk museum, im a poet writer singer song writer homesteader, im extremely creative growing wild foods heirloom apple trees and 16 century deeply fragrant roses, wish my flower hay meadow/ my place could be a scape goaters healing recovery spot and i had a sweet guy/new family to /help me do it, i wish i had somebody to talk to/ its not right that i have to be so brave all this time alone im 59!

      1. Heidy

        Lots of losses, Gentian. Same as me. Were we meant to serve others? Would that be a means of connecting to others? Hard for me to get accepted even in volunteer activities. It’s as if all the hate aimed at me took hold and changed my image from pretty likable woman to someone ‘different’ and not in a good way. I also wonder, do other people who make us miserable or who don’t seem to take to us, do they suffer tremendously, too? Maybe our isolation seems unique to us. But is that true? Have no answer for your brave soul except keep getting up, brushing yourself off and doing it again. Mentally……..let your daughter completely go, in prayerfulness, detach yourself and don’t lower yourself to feel needy for her. Silence. Could be your apparent lack of concern will raise some in her. God Bless You!

  2. Amanda J Loftin

    This article can help my cousin. She was scapegoated by some thoughtless relatives, because she was quiet during family gatherings , so some loud obnoxious uncles and aunts thought she was not intelligent.

    She wanted to attend college and relatives told her that college was to difficult for her, she should try work for the disabled. They only saw her a few times out of the year, and they could judge? SMH She had a GPA of 3.9 and was already accepted to UCSB in 1986. When they found out she had been accepted , they assumed UCSB was having lower enrollment that year and would take anyone, which wasn’t the case.

    I felt sorry for her during Christmas time , when except for my side of my family , she would get the cheapest gift. An aunt bought expensive items for all the kids except her. The aunt was nice to the kids except for her. After the aunt gave presents to the children she cared about , she turned to the scapegoat and said coldly ” This is for you. ” It was a cheap cheesy bracelet you could find at a five n’ dime.

    She quit UCSB because she was depressed and lacked confidence. She’s living with me because her parents can’t afford upkeep. My parents and I are the only family members that ever cared about her. Her parents simply can’t afford and live in a small condo now.

    Over the last 30 years, she has had odd jobs, few friends and no relationships , because feels unworthy of them.

    I dislike the relatives who made her life miserable. They all refuse to see the fault in their behavior. I have never understood why they treated her so badly. They were so talkative and talked over her. It’s craziness.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      This hurts my heart. I am so sorry and tell her that she is not alone. I lived my entire life feeling awkward, from kindergarten till now. But I am okay with it now, of course. I know my worth. What did it take? Well, I still get abused by people at times, but I learned that their actions have nothing to do with who I am. There mean words and actions show who they are…some people seem like monsters. I say this because some people actually do not seem to care that you hurt. They will know you’re hurting and still mistreat you. I feel sorry for those people because I am the type that believes that we pay for our wrongs. I’ve paid for my wrongs, still do.

      What hurts the most about what you’ve said is that she is 30 years old and still suffering. I am 45, and still falling into some of the same manipulative traps set by people. AS for me, I eventually see the truth, and I know it’s not me. But if her self-esteem is still low, she will have to work on that before ever trying to make other relationships again. She needs to start over, and limit her contacts drastically, so that she can figure out who she is separate from everyone else. Right now, she could pick friends that would hurt her even more. She needs a new foundation build on worth first. You can help her with that by being one of the people she can trust. Help her to get a chance in life by encouraging her to start over.

      Here’s an example: I was married for 17 years and everyone called me “Fred’s wife” (NOt my ex’s real name, mind you). I always asked him what I should do, what looked good on me, and all sorts of things. MY life was built off a part of him. So, I divorced him, for many reasons, and I lived on my own, had my children every other week. On the weeks that i was completely alone, I got to know me. Over time, I could choose things I liked and people called me by my name. I built standards of my own, I built boundaries, and I experimented with friends…yeah, still picked some that were not good for me. What did I do with them? I stayed away from them because I knew they were unhealthy. So, starting from scratch works. Yes, I had a few friends like you, good ones who wanted the best for me, and that helped too.

  3. Frank

    Hi Sherrie. At 50 years of age, I am finally and completely distancing myself, this time for good, from my so-called “family”. My entire family has been bullying and scapegoating me for yearas !! It all started with my highly narcisstic dad that bullied me and emotionally abused me, NON-STOP, everyday, since my childhood, well into adulthood and themn of course my 2 siblings also did because they saw how my dad treated me and they copied. Both of my parents were and still are highly narcisstic, (ESPECIALLY MY FATHER!) and they were probably brought up by narcissistic parents as well so it’s not surprising. I don’t even know how I survived all these years of torment, insults, lies, false accusations ! Anyways, that’s life. Very unfortunate for me to have experienced this. All I can do is continue to get help, advice and support from positive people like yourself. Thank You for this information !

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      Here’s a few tips:

      Never completely write off your family for good. When someone dies, you will have regret no matter how they treated you. It happened to me. So, see them as much as you can take.

      Do Limit your time around them, however, to protect your mental health

      And, stop the pattern with you. Do not let their behavior influence you and don’t do to others what they did to you. It’s a generational curse. It must be broken and you are responsible for breaking it.

      Most importantly, be good to yourself, get to know the real you and appreciate your self-worth. What they say about you is no reflection of who you are. Remember that.

  4. Maibe

    How can you get out if being a scapegoat if still continues through your adulthood and expanded past family (husband, inlaws (husbands family and spouses of siblings) Its not from the lack of standing up for myself because when i do it causes more issues like being ridiculed, belittled or even ignored to the point of feeling nonexistent.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      If you are being abused by your husband, you have a choice of whether to stay with him or not. As for his family, if he goes, so do they. Your siblings’ spouses, meh, you can stay away from them as much as possible and still manage to show kindness the few times you have to be around them. I’m not telling you what to do, but if you feel trapped, you are doing to have to bust out somehow. Either they are going to have to face their issues or you’re going to have to get away from them. Your mental health is important. Maybe you can talk to them and let them know how you feel. Always do this before just giving up on them.

  5. Claire

    I’m 24 and i like reading psychology articles and watching videos. I watched a video and just realised that, not only is my entire family narcissistic but my sister i live with is an extreme one. My mother is a narcissist and my father is the passive/active enabler, my sister is the golden child because, my mother had her first after 8 years with no child and my younger brother is ‘lost’ to crime. Then i saw an article on being the scapegoat, then i read yours and i was and am still shocked, I’ve been playing the scapegoat and mascot and I have 6/8 of these experiences. I just had an altercation, that’s left me shaken and I know now that i need to distance myself completely, if I want to be sane. I’ve never had many close friends and I’ve been singled out and ridiculed since I was a kid, by my parents and outsiders, but I’ve learned to love my isolation and find hobbies, but i always notice that i have an unhealthy need to please my family. I’m currently considering just disappearing from the household and not letting them know my whereabouts.

  6. Patricia

    It is such a crashing experience. It doesn’t stop. To add insult to injury, it turns out i am the ‘healthy’ one and they look to me for financial help. I had no one growing up and outside of my husband and kids i still have no one.

  7. Amanda J Loftin

    Hi Sherrie I’m horrified about what happened to you. That is so cruel! I will never understand why scapegoating happens, it’s illogical , insane for family members to favor some over others. And it wasn’t only your family, it was school and that completely floors me when this happens in school also. Maybe it’s the whole area, town, and they expect extreme conformity, they are judgemental because they hate uniqueness , different ideas and people thinking outside the box.

    It’s good you set boundaries, people need to be seperated from your life that don’t treat you well.

    My cousin recently moved out, she found a job and has a boyfriend. She told me she doesn’t think about the past anymore. She is only in contact with my parents and I.

    All the best to you. <3 Amanda

  8. Amanda J Loftin

    Every scapegoat I have known are very creative people , they have thinking that goes against the grain, they won’t conform to views they feel uneasy about, they won’t abandon good values to fit in. This angers the scapegoaters because they can’t handle not being able to force their will on the scapegoat.

    In another family the scapegoat is hated for being anti-war . All she said was that she wanted her brother to be safe and not have to be deployed. This created a rif between her family and herself, the family views her as a traitor to the family’s military prowness , she has been unfriended on Facebook and real life by her family. This attitude goes well beyond protecting the Nation , into a narcissitic hatred of those outside the US, everyone is a potential enemy, everyone on the outside is looked at with suspicion.

  9. Eileen Gonzalez

    Hi can I contact you via email? This is Eileen. I have a few questions to ask and would like to talk with you.

  10. Heidy

    Ditto, Patricica! It’s hell to be halthy.

  11. Reilly

    It’s ‘funny’ though (and I mean funny in a dark morbid sense ) as to what sometimes happens.

    Take my case for example. I was the scapegoat for the first 25 years of my life. Then I moved far away to accept a high paying job. Guess what happened? Yep, requests for money from my family. The final straw was that these requests were not placed in a respectful or even civil format, but in a ‘You own us for putting up with you’ demanda.
    No contact with them for the last five years and only hope it will continue like that for thr rest of my life.
    Sometimes people are just so toxic, it is the only thimg left to do.

  12. Meghan

    My family tells me I’m paranoid like my dad but I was neglected as a child and ignored pretty much and was living around rubbish and mice I was really frustrated as a kid and don’t understand why my life was like that and never being able to say anything to anyone coz they was neglecting me and after that i moved to my aunties and she hated my mum she never helped me it was weird was like she was pretending to help me and I thought she was and she never had conversatio a with me but did her kids would act like all different when people were round and would be nice to me and soon as they left she would switch to I’m not a person anymore and now I don’t trust anyone and I’m stuck with mum who’s not well to even talk to and I’m to embarrassed of my self I can’t even look anyone in the eye I just panic and hide and I keep drinking alcohol feel like only thing i v fgot want help but no one gets me just think I’m coursing my own issues or they just saying i am

  13. Andrew jiron

    I’ve been the scapegoat all my life. I start to do good and they would just break me n back down. Tell me I’m the milkman’s, tell me I need to change then when I change I get told I don’t care or try and I need to change more. I will do what they say and when that goes wrong, it’s still my fault. Or when I stick up for my self I’m told just let it go it does not matter. I’m 36 now and have lost everything. My stuff stolen yet my family constantly tells me stuff that runs in I have nothing. I get a lawyer to help and they cut me off and apologize for the but directly hinder me from asking questions that matter.I’m fed up ready to say f everything and everyone as nobody listens to me now. I ha cptsd and adhd and they like to set me off thinks it’s funny. I don’t trust anyone anymore and I have been trying to get a new life started but the things holding me back they refuse to help with or sabatoge while they help with things to look like they are trying to help. They will start fights before people are around and then stop when they get there so it looks bad on me. I hate life and I wish my body would just quit. My soul is tired and hope diminished

  14. Leigh

    I checked all 8 boxes. And it took me into being a senior citizen to heal. To know them and to know me. I have left that behind me and embrace the good life I have made for myself. My sons and daughter-in-law are my soft places to fall.

  15. Rick

    Scapegoat here. Although I always knew that my family was screwed up, I didn’t realize until my late 50’s that they fell within the description of a dysfunctional family. Now all the pieces fell into place. My Narcissistic mother ruined 4 sons, of which I made out the best financially. It was tough sledding for many years, but with the reading I have done, things have improved.
    My mother was always nuts, so her shafting me in the end was not really a surprise. What was a surprise is that my golden brother was oh so willing to be her little helper – I always wrongly believed that he was my best friend.
    The bitch let my father die on the floor and she should probably have gone to prison for it, which is probably why she didn’t sue the E.R. that released him a few hours prior to his death. I really suffered after his death, to the point that I sort of Canonized him. It took a long time for the smoke to clear and for me to realize that he was a weak enabler all throughout my youth, and contributed to his own death. With her help, of course…

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