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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Toxic Families Who Scapegoat

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 27th 2014

Toxic Families Who ScapegoatWe tend to think of bullying as something that happens in the school yard amongst kids who are being mean and abusive to one another. However, over the many years of my practice I have come across cases in which the client presented with the problem and complaint that they felt picked on and excluded from their family of origin. They were distressed, anxious and depressed over this problem despite the fact that they had their own families with husbands or wives, children, careers and friends. Yet, they were experiencing life as though they were children living in their parental home.

Incredible as it might seem, there are families that scapegoat a loved one even into and including adulthood. For a variety of reasons we will explore one member becomes the target of accusations, blame, criticism and ostracism. While it's happening, family members are totally unaware of what they are doing and would deny it if confronted with their behavior. Often, scapegoating begins in childhood and continues into and throughout adulthood.

Why would a family choose a loved one to bully and scapegoat? The answer has a lot to do with the concept of scapegoating and the purpose it serves. Scapegoating is often a way for families to hide problems that they cannot face. In the examples of cases I have worked with one or both parents were abusive to their children. In adulthood, scapegoating became a way for adult children to hide the fact of family history of abuse by blaming everything on one member who seemed vulnerable for attack. At times the scapegoat targeted by the sibling who was always the favorite of the family. In that way, the less favored sibling becomes the repository of everything that is wrong in the family.

A parent with Borderline Personality or Narcissistic Personality Disorder can vent their own frustrations, aggression and hatred against one child by uniting the others who are made to think that this one sibling is guilty of everything. In this scenario, the parent goads the other children to pick on the one. None of this stops in adulthood. Of course, the child whose personality is most like the personality disordered patient is targeted because that parent sees in the child everything they hate about themselves. Here, too, this pattern continues into adulthood.

The question that scapegoats face is what they can do to deal with the problem? While one would might think this should not be a problem for an adult, the fact is that these people become depressed, anxious, withdrawn and even, in the worst cases, suicidal. There is no way to underestimate the fears, self hatred and desperation these people come to fee. It is common for them to believe what the family tells them so that they accept all of the blame and finger pointing at them despite the fact that it's untrue.

Commonly used strategies used by the scapegoat usually end in failure and even worse. I have seen situations where the scapegoat argues pleads their innocence before the family only to find themselves further blamed and persecuted. The sad fact is that rational and reasonable discussion is impossible. So, what is a person to do?

Over the years I have recommended family therapy for this situation. Given the nature of the family dynamics involved, none of the families have been willing to attend, not even for the sake of their loved one. The only other alternative that I have suggested and has been used in a few desperate cases, is to walk away from the family of origin by severing all ties.

This is not a decision that is easily made, especially when mothers and fathers are involved. However, given the fact that these very same parents constantly express cruelty to their adult child with unfortunate emotional consequences there is nothing else to do. It's important to remember that the reason for severing all ties is preservation of one's emotional health. It's also important to remember that these scapegoated family members often have their own families that are warm, loving and successful.

The bottom line is that making someone the scapegoat is abuse, whether that person is a child or adult.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Thank You - Samantha - Mar 23rd 2015

Thank you all so much for your insightful and informative websites. We're at least lucky enough to live in an age where all the information is readily available online and all the experiences people have had and are going through. It's comforting to know there are others like me out there, and that we can help eachother get through this. Thank you.

Bullied by family... it makes sense now. - Tae - Mar 23rd 2015

well its even worse when they have an binding reason to put me down.  yes.. i do drink and like to go out but on my own dime.  My entire family was a mess... i dont want to even get into that.  My only regret is taht i came back to help them only to be scammed and stuck left in the aftrmath.  Now its what ever they can do to spread my horrible deprssion maily due to the incident i had with them.  so at family functions, Ill get a "please be good to y9our parents" and a look of disappointment.  Really?  Whew... without getting getting too deep into it, im glad that few of my cousins and uncles are getting better now.  this is only after they saw the documents that i have involving th4 scamm they pulled. Anyhow , thanks for the article.

Scapegoating is Abuse - - Mar 20th 2015

Scapegoating is abusive behavior that is done for the sake of the abusers.  It's done so that abusive people can feel a little bit content with themselves by collectively pointing their fingers at an innocent person to avoid accepting responsibility for their own problems.  It's so important that scapegoat victims realize that they have done NOTHING wrong.  Do not try to fix the problem by joining the scapegoaters in scapegoating someone else.  In my view, the ONLY solution is to cut ties permanently.  You can't change other people.  You can't make other people take responsibility for themselves.  If you're being used as a scapegoat within a family system, get out, move away, and don't look back!

scapegoat no more - sara - Mar 19th 2015

After reading the comments the one made by Chris dec 2014 ..... feeling much better ..... today is the day no more scapegoat ..... a whole life of verbal and mental abuse comes to an end ..... time for focusing on my lil fam and friends that love me ..... so long toxic sibs ..... no more abuse ..... I am finally free !!!!!!!


Scapegoats and funerals - - Mar 19th 2015

I was always scapegoated and moved away at a young age. Every time I returned, the abuse was a reminder of how horrible it was. My father finally put a bullet in his head after 59 years of my malignant narcissist mother denigrating everyone. She left my name out of the obituary as a surviving child intentionally-her advertisement to the world of her mental illness. I attended the funeral, avoided her and went home. I have one remaining brother and one sister, it will be interesting to see who she sucks the life out of next!

Finally Have an Answer - Terri - Mar 9th 2015

For the first time in my life, I am free. I mean really free. I am free from being lied about, backstabbed, and humiliated. I never have to hear my mother scream at me and call me abusive names ever again. I never have to watch her fall all over her "beautiful" other daughter while I get kicked in the teeth by not only them but my Aunt and cousin. I am free from hearing what an awful person I am and being blamed for EVERYTHING that was NOT MY FAULT. I am free to accept the love of my amazing husband and amazing friends while those women live lonely lives with no love and no friends. I have a great life and it is even better now that they are not in it. I bet they believe they are hurting me by ignoring me. Now THAT is funny.  What is NOT funny is what she/they did to me. What is NOT funny is being abused my whole life by a narcisstic b*tch and her minions who hates themselves. She convinced herself when I was young that I hated her. She would even tell me that. Her words "it will be easier to hate me when I am dead." Who says that to a young child? I mean, I can have the best intentions and she can turn everything I do and say into ugly. Nothing is ever right when it comes to me. Any relationship I mistakenly though I could have with my sister is gone forever. My mother made damned sure of that.

I am done trying to figure out what I did so wrong in this life to make them hate me so much. It is hard. I was a very sensitive child and that woman would have driven me to suicide if I had been weak on top of it. I am 46 years old now and took to cutting myself two years ago over what those horrible people did to me. I got some help and stopped. I do struggle with emotional issues that I am healing from. I quit drinking alcohol before I really did hurt myself. I am lucky to have an amazing husband who sees what I have been through and holds me up when I cannot do it myself. I no longer look for any responsiblity from any of them. I know it will never come. They still blame me. My nieces still love me and I am still in contact with them. I live in fear that she will get to them one day. I can only hope that my being good to them will outweigh her horridness. I am thankful my sister does not bad mouth me to them either. While my anger with her is profound, she is merely a product of this whole dysfuntion and unable to stand up for what is right. For that reason alone, we will never be friends.

But today I am free. I have relocated and have no contact. I think I mourn what I wish I could have had in a family instead of this mess I have. My mother, her sister, and my cousin are all very physically unhealthy people and getting up there in years. I wonder when the time comes if I will even bother attending their funerals. I doubt it. Life is for the living and I have nothing to offer anyone they leave behind mourning them. My heart is cold and closed off to any of them forever. They will never get close to me again. I never hated my mother like she thought. As a grown woman who has more love, friendship, and respect than she has ever had, I feel sorry for her that her life is so meaningless. Maybe she blames her first born she had when she was 16 for that. Who knows. I am done trying to figure it out. 

Extended scapgoating - BGS - Mar 7th 2015

I have been scaop goated, abused, denied my rights as a husband all for the sake of letting my father and mother, my wife say look at what my husband, son is alowing your son or daughter to do with the time he is giving up for them.

Between my Junior and senior year my father thought that going into the Army would give me what he called mnmuch needed direction, So i took a split enlistment for Army basic and my first AIT when i camehomei wnt straight from the airport to registration and after that to football practice, Two weeks later the head coach called me into his office, he said hehad fournew sphmores whos fathers were on the school board and, he was expected to start them so i was being relegated to 2nd strng as a senior, So I went out to the scrimage that day as a 3nd stringer, by mid practic i had treated thefour hard enugh they turned in thire uniformes advancing the four that shud have had the positons in the first place,

My father came screaming out of the bleachers, sceanming tha was the worst dispay of bad sportsnman ship he ever witnessed. he went and gt n his car and left yelling he would have alot to say at home, When i got there him the fur school boaerrd members wo had sons quit the team, with several other men were standing there, i steped out of my car, and suddeny everything went black, I woke up ziptied to a tree, they were making a big show of cutting up an extensin cord, my father walked up and said what i want right now is an apology to these men, I said why I just took what I earned, he said if thats what it has to be They took turns useng thse cords on my back, somtime later i passed out, In a recerent family session when the duiscusion turned t the reason i had a networl of scares on my back and i finaly tod my wife and mother what happened that night, i had t go get 153 sutures in my back, and my father said if he had just cried out we would have stopped in other words it was nyfault for getting whipped s bad,

When I came back from the navy the two days after i returned my fatyher screamed me into going and reenstating from my military leave. i was put to work on my old job even given my old tool box back, I was not planning on staying on second shift however. I now had eight credited years of seniority, that put me in the upper 40 percent of the workforce. I put my shift preference in the second day after I was handed a guardianship on my wife going in to work. The next day my father and wife landed in the midle of me about bumping on to first.

My faher has several sayings about what is expected of me, The fuirst is boy you better shut up and do as your betters require, another is if we wanted you to have rights we will give them to you, and yet another is just because everyone else is abe to have somthiing it does not mean you shuld have the same, like days off,holidays and vacations, But my wife tells me if for a short time i could just forgo my seniority rights and not disturb any one elses life, she would be abe to be a real wife.

She was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. always running to get it just never getting there in time. I existed with this idiotic arrangment for 16 years. I did not even have a day off in that time, then i collapsed with a blinding headache, i threw up all over my superviser and passed out, I had been having bad headaches for years, I woke up the next day with a wrap aound my head and a hole that had been drilled over my right eye to remove a tumor causeing hydrocephalus, I was supposed to get 60 days recovery time but i was messing up everyones vacations because i became ill, My wife was pushed to her rear end when they came for me six days later, i was told i did not work standing on my head.

I decided that was the time i was going to starte taking what i wanted with my seniority, The first thing i did was bid on a new job, at a new plant, on a new shif. I had 23 years seniority, the other man wanting the job was the son of my fathers best friend and county commissioner. He only had 8 years. Myfather started yelling i was to stay right where i was, his friends son needed the job more than me because his friend was going to run for congress, he was one who helped my father beat me that evening after practice so i felt him and my father go straght to hades. My wife came to me and prmised she would let me have myrights as a husband, and use what little influece she had to get my father off my back about days and holidays off if i would please no make people angryand stay put, i told her she could step in front of a semi tractor, When i would not remove my name the next step left to them was to strong arm me into removing my name, By this time everyone had forgoton i waswell trained as a 3rd dan black belt in sho raee, trained in air assault and air born as well as nuclear weapons securty and qualified subarines. I knew alot avbout combat arts, even the cheats, four men went to a critical care unit that morning, in grave condition, My father and his friends decided that I was now to deadly to deal with without being well armed. So i spent every holiday and many weekends when it was not 100 percent. being escorted to work with four shotguns pointed at me, idid get hold of one one thanksgiving, the man i gotit from had his face caved in when i used the butt on his face, i drew down on my father and the other two, a sherrifes deputy showed up and beged me not to unload on them, since i already ruined the hoiday for everyone i just needed to go to work and cool off. when i arrived home that nigh. they were all still at the hospital. the thanksgving diner was in the warmer waiting for them so i took what i wanted and trashed the rest, this was the holiday they had to go get sandwhiches, when I got up to get ready to go to work the next morning my wife was crying at the kitchen table, i said the dinner was good thanks, she said you knowhow hard i worked on that t come home and find it being eaten by the dogs in the area, she said why did i do that, i said i have paid for many of these dinners, that was the first i did not just get a sandwiche from, i said i was tiered of living like a slave, working for her, my father , his friends and thier snot nosed brats. and i was really tired of being married to her for nothing in return, i went to work withher crying her eyes out and my father screaming that was a childish way to be because i was expected to be a man.. I developed MRSA in my spine the next year, lost the feeling from the top of my legs down, When I came home my wife was having an affair, and when i confronted her and the other man i wanted him to take the Guardianship, and run with her, He thught i needed to be taught humility, and swept my cane putting me on the floor, he then laughed and called me pathetic, I then proceded to ruin his life, i threw my cane fracturing his scull. when the police arrived I was still hiting him aas hard as i could with my fists screaming whoes pathetic now, He had to go hme to his wife thart way and his faandering was out of the bag, she hit him in his broken jaw witha softball bat, threw divorce papers at him, as well as his couths, the next day he was fired for misapropriating company funds because they investigated him after he went to ICU, When i was released from the stress center two weeks later and transported hme i walked in to find my wife getting ready to go with my fathers best frind to a politica fund raising dinner, One my fathers best friend is someboody i have absolutly no respect for, i told her he was going buy himself and for once was staying home and beinfg a real wife, That I was the only one in her ife that night, She says all ihad to do was negotiat and much of thet trouble now would not be happening.

She proposed that i allow her to go to the event, I would pick a plasce to meet after the event, and she would call my parents and my father, his friend, my mother and her could sit down over coffee I culd get somthing to eat and we would have the long overdue discussion on how i could be allowed my rights as a husband and in my life. I said there was only one opinion that mattered, that was mine, I did not care what any one wanted and that included her, it wasmy turn. She understood i was not going to wait any more for any thing i wanted.

 She took off for the door, i ripped her dress off, and i took my rights as a husband, i then threw the phione to her and told her if she wanted to lose everything she should call the police because once in jail i would get everything frozen for my defense fund, My fathers friend thought his position with the mayors office would impress me when he sauid he work there and needed no warrant or badge to ebnter my house. I threw him at my arriving father and missed, he ended uop with 23 sutures in his face, i feel he still owes 130 more to me. My wife was aking to my mother about how sombody could do this,

I dont think i was really lsft with a choice. I could either be the sumissive worm, or I could be the 600 pound guela in the room. I choosethe gureila.

Trying to get husbands understandn of why he was abused for three decades - Lee - Mar 3rd 2015

When my husband came hme in 1985 from the military it was left up to me to keep him from taking rights he had in seniority, Every time he would want a new shift, a day off, a holiday off or a vacation slot that somone would have been forced to work if my husband chose to take what he wanted with his seniority, It was said he was the only person tough enough to work that partcular job, the average temp was 125 degrees, it was alot of ifting of heavy bars of steal, baskets of parts he produced, everytime some one would be asked to do that job insead of my husband they woud run screaming from it and even quit before they would do it.

So to get my husband not to push people with less seniority into working when he dd not want to work i told him if for a little while he would not push his agenda I would one day be the wife he wanted in the bedroom. His father and his friends would stop yelling at him. and he could get some rest one day, just not right now. Sixteen years later this promise had no more effect, He told me to step out in front of a semi, he was done with our expectaions of him, he had not had but six days off in the time betwween june first 1985, to july 31 2001, some of the arguments with his father, his friends, and myself, bought sheriffs interventimn. I would be begging just a few more months then I will fulfill my promise, His father would be screaming he was to just shut his trap and do as he was told and it would be easier on everyone, Then After A brain surgery in 2001 things changed. He hurt four men taking a job and shift he wanted putting them in critical care, his father came oveer cryiing all he had t do was shut his mouth and back down and nobody would have been hurt.

After that incedent his father and his friends used the threat of shotguns to get him to work holidays weekends and vacations. Then he developed MRSA in his spine and many more fights, bedpans thrown and him beng sedated every time, then he came home, he knew the reasons i could not allow sex with me before, but i still was in need to . I had taken lovers and he discovered me in one of these. I never imagined that a man criplled as my husband is could be as dangerouse aas he became. First the other man he discovered me with thought he would have some fun with my husband, when we went in he swept his cane thinking it would ighten the seriouse mood that was set, My husband hit the floor hard and my AP started laughing, and caling him pathetic, My husbands cane came flying accross the room and fractured his scull, my husband was not done though as he pulled himself over and beat the other man badly screaming who is pathetic now.

Two weeks latter i was suposed to go with his fathers best friend to a fund raiser when my husband came home from the stress center, the ensueng argument ended up with me being raped, his fathers friend geting 23 sutures and neither of us going.

The last two years has been my husband foecing his way into every invitation i get. Next mnth i had put together a vacation cruise for his father and family and friends. Husbands father felt his son has taken every right he is going to be allowed and does not want him on the cruise, Since much of the money was being issued out of my and my husbands accounts, my husband started changing everything to includ him.

We have tried any compromise, teling him the next time in three years he wosd be included, that was turned down flat, offered exchang off a vacation latter this year, he is willing to accept this offer if one none of his money is used on this one, two I dont go. and three his father has his threatend corenaruy. in other words we wont be gong without his presence. We have tried couseing, We have tred other families coming begging him tto cancel, His father screams he ha not had a vacation for himself since 1971. Why should he be so hot about one now.

As for me if we figure out a way to keep him off this cruise, I better not be going, his bank accounsts not used for even a loan, and if i go He will eave two bags with what remains of my things at the Bus Staion wih a ticket and a cashiers check, After everything he would think i owed him back it would come out to less than 3000.00, i would find my homes locks changed.The ATM card canceled for my name.

I can understand the reasns he s unreasonable, I just cant understand the driven way he is dong things, The last two years there, has been nothing in the way of a compromise, a promise of future exchange for gvng up somthing he wil accept and its like he has his foot on our throats.

I also now what he was forced to do was wrong, but he should understand he has not been alowed any social interaaction in so long he needs to take it slow in getting accepted into going on vacation, family holidays, or other famly functions,

i feel he wants everyone that has forced him or hurt him over the ast 33 years, to take a turn at being told to sit down, shut up, and do as he says, and he is willing to back his up wth violent action, just like his faher and friends did before hedveoped MRSA in hs spine. He says how doe we like it.

The family Outcast - chessgames73 - Mar 1st 2015

I believed myself, right or wrong, to be the black sheep of the family. After coercion for being a bone marrow donner, and submitting twice, I was regelated to being the outcast of the family. No one seemed to care how I felt or the fears I had. My mother says I'm the one who has to reach out and reconcile. I am happy to do this where I am clearly wrong, but my siblings are not rquired to reciprocate. And, of course, my brothers' problems are always more important than mine. It's okay, though, I'm willing the accept the sins of the past and the abuse that was imposed upon me. However, I feel that I am never required to compromise what I understand to be true, even if they do not agree. We have to be able to let our families go, if necessary. Transformation and growth is impossible if we dont.

Amazing - - Feb 28th 2015


My heart dropped to my knees just now from reading your comments of the life of the scapegoat growing up in a toxic family.

parents f that has to maintain image and social status in the community were they live face obstacles. However, emotional abuse is worst than physical abuse.

When you have your parents remind you constantly how stuoid you are in front of your siblings, it does noting but destroy there identity , but rather it places a image of who they are and what their family thought of hem for the rest of their life.

I decided the only way I could have a friend or a intimate partner was to shut down my thought I was equal.

I became a cheerleader when in real thought I wanted a friend.

I did hold a  relationship for 20 plus years. It nearly killed me!

I was constantly reminded by him what a failure I was.

I was set up in scheme from him and his Lawyer to create a fight on a video. He wanted me to look as the abuser.

I found a reciept in our check book that had the Lawyers name on it.

Below the name, I saw written it was financial consulting. I looked in the phonebook to see who this Lawyer was. I saw his name in an advertisment, Divorce Lawyer for Men. 

I called and asked the secretary what it would cost to have a consult with this lawyer for a divorce. It was the same amount wriiten in the check.I then realized I wasin trouble. I knew in my heart he  was going to hurt me but did not know what to do because I have a son. 

All I can tell you is that I created the same environment as I had as a child. I learned from my parents that passed on though their example of treatment to me to my siblings that it's okay to a someone that is weaker and use them as your sounding board. 

I was nver acknowedge as a part of my biological family and married a narcissitic man believing he may, one day, change and be nice .

It was a frightening time and I must say , if I am right , I was atrracted to what I dreamt growing up I would eventually escape?

That makes me a failure and you are right ,that makes suicide attractive.

He told me if I ever left he would make it so I would never be able to live in the city were I raised my son had a circle of friends around me.

He  said he would make it so I would never be able to show my face  and have to leave  Boulder after he was though with me .

After the final attack , I left, and I must say that he did unspeakable things that he and his attorney seemed to enjoy! I suffered ptsd and broken bones.

I went through so much embarassment  and financial rape that I have to say at my age,  I know that falling a sleep, never waking up to the memories again would be best.

You are right and I wish you could be an advocate in the legal system to declarethat criminal court officials need to acknowlege when a victim of crime has been abused and the perpretrator has been sentenced that there are saftey measures needed to be placed in the system to protect them in Family court systems so the victim is not free reign for more abuse.

i was forcrd to go to a mediation when I found out later , that a Victim of violence did not have to be subjected to it .

He and his attorney had me sit there for 10 hours , 3 hours was spent waiting for a replie from he criminal attorney, The most humilating time was when his lawyer came in to the room sat across the table from me. He was the attorney that had a video my exhusband took of me when I was in my bedroom the attack trying to get to theshower undressed. 

He showed it to so any men and kept asking my Lawyer to see it.

I have to tell you if you heard anything like this and lady surviving it all...

I would like to know because I stil wake up with flashback.I spend my life alone.A far cry from life as an Flight Attendant and a Mother that had a great  friends I can no onger talk too!

Thank you

Thank You for the article - - Feb 23rd 2015

Thank You for this article. My husband has been the scapegoat in his family for years. We have tried everything in our power to try and improve the relationship but to no avail. Everytime we try to do something nice, it blows up in our face. They then get the extended family to gang up on him. Everything in the article was very comforting to read since it helped to give a name to what was happening and also what our options are. It is not us but them. It is not right but it happens. It was something that was very helpful.

Noah Scaping - Noah Scaping - Feb 23rd 2015

Just sixth months ago my older brother revealed to me the family's deep dark secret.

I was born into a family of sixteen children, and around 2 months after birth my mother would hold me down and my father would beat me to unconsciousness.  The rest of my life has happened automatically and because those events.  I am a very talented Tenor Soloist, but because of poor self esteem I am not able to perform before an audience.

At 77 years old I am not planning on ever getting over the cruelty shown me before I was conscious.

Incredible as it may seem the general public carries on the destruction of my parents when I was 2 months old.  I know it's because of how I act that gives them the "right" to be abusive.  I only know to stay by myself. 

Your article on Scapegoating is encouraging to me.

Sister is a sweetheart? Not! - - Feb 22nd 2015

I divorced the weirdo narccisitic family, they were unhealthy to be around. It's funny when you make the choice to go no contact how easily they persuade other relatives to join their ranks, it's sickening. It's not bad enough they went out of their way to make life miserable, they have to enlist anyone possible they can get to listen. Is their life that shallow that after 20 years of NC with a little relapse in between that they don't get tired of hearing themselves talk about me? If they were any kind of people they would've figured it out and done something about their behavours, never mind about fixing the \\

Scapegoat escape - Drella - Feb 6th 2015

Since completing a doctoral program, for the first time in my life I had the time to sort out all social suffering I went through that constantly held me back in my work. I had poor self esteem even when others were calling me the star student. I\\\'m not being humble, I truly believed professors and mentors were feeling sorry for me or lying. Outside of school I would go to the only people I had, my two sisters, mother and father (divorced and single). I felt it was a comfort to just have family even if it meant being ridiculed constantly. I pretended it was out of their insecurity, and went along with it, but I never felt truly happy, even away from them. 

My father is a plastic surgeon who physically abused my older sister and I until my mother divorced him. My younger sister was neglected during divorce. Both of my sisters have angry and aggressive personality types which they gloat about because they say they take after my \\

Living with being the scapegoat! - - Feb 2nd 2015

I am so glad to read everyone's stories for I to am the scapegoat in my family.  I walked away 5 years ago just after my dad died.  It has been hard but it is the best thing I could do.  I truly believed in family that they will help you in times of need, what a bogus answer.  The only people they want to help is themselves.  The world only revolves around them.  I am tired of being the one that always needs to apologize.  Too much addictions(alcoholism)and too many know it alls.  I have been truly blessed with a great husband and two wonderful kids that is what keeps me going. 

Scapegoat - Jane - Jan 22nd 2015

I'm a 42 year old woman and it has just dawned on me that I'm the family scapegoat. I always seem to be the target for their anger. My mother has narcissistic qualities and all her nastiness used to be taken out on my father and she encouraged other family members to be vindictive towards him. I wouldn't take part in this and since he's died, I seem to have taken his place as the family scapegoat.

I spent two weeks helping my mother move house and painting her home. I then told her I had to work for two days and would see her on the third day. Next thing I know, my sister is on the phone, telling me my mother is upset as I never see her. It was my sister that hadn't gone round at all, but I'm the one being blamed! My brother forgot mother's day. I took my mother out for a meal, gave her flowers and champagne(as she only likes big showy gestures - I tried the hand made card as a kid and it got binned).  and guess who got no thanks and a sour face from her? Me. All because my brother had let her down- but i got the blame and fallout from it all.

My mother and sister talk over each other and I just sit and listen and nod and say nothing as I can't get a word in. I had to have no contact for 2 years after one of their extreme bouts of lies and craziness- which was heaven. Then the phonecalls and letters started and I was drawn back in again by their persistent manipulation.

I now rarely listen or take in anything they say. I drift off to other thoughts. I therefore don't absorb their negative vibes any more. I don't take sides or comment on anything they try and stir up about each other and I try and stay out of their way and never offer to meet up unless it is unavoidable. I take no interest in them and have an almost robotic response to their endless self absorbed waffle. I have a happy marriage and a good life and now just view them as a tragic side show. I'm not here to solve their problems or rescue them from their self inflicted chaos. Since I've become disinterested and less involved, they seem to be behaving better- but only time will tell. I'm determined to stick with my aloof stance, as I ran myself in the ground trying to accommodate them and it was never enough, so I may as well not bother and let them get on with it. It would be nice to have a natural, genuine relationship, like i have with my husband- love and banter- but i realise it isn't possible with my family.  My mother moves house every year as she is never happy where she is- she falls out with people a lot and now has moved down the road from me- so no doubt will stalk me in town. But I don't care any longer as I'm now fully conscious of all her little games. Now i know she's my enermy, her manipulation and deviousness no longer hurt me. The reality is, she just uses me for her own ends. The biggest problem was realising I've never had a mother's love- but now I'm older it's easier to deal with and at least I'm taking back control of my life and time and feeling a lot less stressed and a great sense of relief. I observe them, but don't get emotionally involved with them any longer as there is nothing but hurt and abuse to be had from engaging with them on any meaningful level and whilst not expecting any thanks for doing things for them, I certainly don't expect to be scapegoated for doing nothing wrong.

Disenfrancise - Leigh - Jan 20th 2015

I am fify-six and have come to the conclusion that you cannot reason, analyze or feel guilt over being a family scapegoat. I finally got wise and disenfrancised. It was freeing and I dont miss them. Not one bit. My immediate family is loving and healthy, and we are close. My energy goes to that unconditional love. It also helps that we live in a different state.

Rather than feel guilty (which I did for years) I am FREE and the weight is lifted from my shoulders. My extended family does try to pull me in to their drama and I say to them, I am sorry you are having trouble. I wish you the best in figuring it out, and I am done! I don't even answer their calls or email because it is just another toxic problem.

Woo hoo! Free at last. Free at last.

I still don't know why I'm scapegoat! - Julie Clarity - Jan 19th 2015

I realized the scapegoating did not stop with me when the Paternal-In-Law and Maternal Great Grandmothers both started in on my not even two year old child.

Unfortunately, I had no idea my maternal Grandmother was using me for a scapegoat until the last Thanksgiving when no one in the rest of the family would look at me and she also attacked my child with the very same words she used on me way back when I was around two years old. I still wonder what lies she spread about me the entire twenty years of my adulthood when I went out of my way to visit and be a good grandchild to her?

The paternal-in-law grandmother had been trying to find ways to bring me into her abusive circle of words only to find she could not engage me, so when she turned on my child the very same month the maternal grandmother did, I knew I wasn't the problem in either case. I certainly knew my almost two year old didn't deserve the treatment these two unhappy elder women wished to vet upon her, too, after they did the same to their female children and female grand children.

The paternal-in-law great grandmother died two years after attacking my child. She never saw either of us again. It was four years ago my maternal grandmother saw me and my baby last, and I'm waiting for her to die and take her evil with does live on in those she favors...they believe her lies and prefer to think the worst about me.

Oh well, right? But no, I'm still wondering what on earth happened. How did I not see this earlier? My mother thinks my Grandmother must be horribly jealous of me to turn on me like that, but frankly, I've been that grandmother's scapegoat since way back. I only wanted to love her and be loved by her, and somehow, she used that against me to make me feel ugly and less important than her favorite grandchildren...

I won't go into how I became my father's preferred target, either, but Halloween 2014 was it. We are now in noncontact except via the internet. It is the only place he cannot play his games with me...I won the last round (I did not take up his trigger so he could yell and scream at me after he projected his emotions on me) when he walked out and started walking home the entire 42 miles to his house...but I don't feel like I won.

What is happening to create all of these abusive people who then feel free to pass it on to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? How will it end? Why do humans seem to tend to be such rotten parents regardless of gender?

Scapegoating - finally I have an explanation for my life! - Anonymous in Seattle - Jan 14th 2015

I only came across information about scapegoating a few weeks ago by accident when searching how to deal with narcissists after yet another mean thing my family did to me.  It has changed my life!  I am so very happy to find out about this.  I have been saying all the points all my life about being the family scapegoat but not realizing it was all connected or calling it that.  I have been frustrated and confused about how I was treated, it made no sense.  Was it really my fault?  Was it my imagination?  Was I making a big deal out of nothing?  To find out it is real, it is bad, it is abuse, it devastates a person and their life, it NEVER stops.  It extends to your own children and nieces and nephews, cousins, and personal relationships and work.  It is insidious. I had just come to the conclusion I had to sever the last family tie I was holding on to.  Like so many others, I was losing nothing, nothing good ever came out of being in contact with any family member.  I suffered unspeakably horrible emotional abuse by family from birth on.  I couldn't understand why I need counselling into my 60's for goodness sake.  Now it all makes sense!  I am so typical, not fully realizing until in my mid-60's!  Oh if I could only have known years sooner.  Thank you so much for bringing light to this terrible problem!

Don't attempt to negotiate with toxic families. - - Jan 13th 2015

The only sensible thing to do is to leave such family and never call back. If the family dares to approach its scapegoat, shoot. Every minute spent on relationship recovery is wasted because the issue cannot be resolved.

Lost in toxic situation - louise - Jan 5th 2015

my mom and I have always bumped heads this is no secret but when I moved to the state where she and my siblings live I learned quickly how I was either showing lack of emotion so that meant I had problems where in the past I showed to much emotion and she would say I was crazy and didn't know what I was saying lately I've tried to communicate but it's either you don't pray enough that's why your in a bad situation or you don't talk to me enough express yourself as if I'm keeping secrets all the while she pretends the things I vent to her some how don't excist or that she didn't tell me my siblings were more important than and yes I do love them more than you I'm sorry if this comes off as whiny or annoying but i have no one I can discuss this with oh and please excuse my lack of punctuation 

There are as many reasons to scapegoating as there are motivations people can have - Rud - Dec 31st 2014

I disagree with the idea that someone is scapegoated because they have a similiar personality to one of the parents. People who bully and torment others seem to have unrealistically high regard for themselves; the favorite in my family is the one most like my parents; that idea assumes the parents have some awareness and shame about their issues. If they're scapegoating their own kid then they more likely than not do not give a flying heap about whether or not they have problems. I'm the least like my parents so I was an easy target by being an outsider. I've witnessed this same dynamic happen falling into other abusive community situations (like work).

There are as many reasons behind why families scapegoat their loved ones as their motivations anyone can have about anything. People don't transform into something different when they have kids or have siblings and what not. If a family is willing to torture one of their loved ones without an ounce of conscience, I don't think any amount of family therapy is going to help the situation. The only good solution I can think of is learning how to live without your family of origin in your life, which isn't an easy fact to face, but what are you going to do, be a victim to them the rest of your life? 

There's also another insidious problem: the learning/habit side of being scapegoated which can be life crippling, if not life threatening. This can be really serious issue people face requires some hardcore work to overcome. My heart goes out to all the people who were born into a family who scapegoated them, it's not an easy road.

Scapegoated - - Dec 31st 2014

I am in my sixties now. Both my parents are deceased. I was scapegoated from early childhood to just recently. When it got so bad with my sister crossing the line and start criticizing my children and not listening to me about talking about our childhood...I decided to cut all family ties. My older brother molested me when I was nine, my mother would do anything to me my sister requested, including putting me back a grade in school to make my sister happy, keep my blonde hair short and unattractive..showing my big ears, cutting the hair off my doll and blaming me for things I didn't do...because my sister said I did it or my mother just wanted to blame me alone. It antagonized me for years with my dads alcoholism and sexual advances toward me in my teens..he finally raped my younger sister who took my place in the family dynamics after I left home. She severed all ties as well. That is alright with me. She is so full of anger that I didn't like being around her. This cutting the ties followed a family outburst from three of my siblings when I mentioned how sick it was to live with our dad. They got angry with me for criticizing him. I have to go to my daughters wedding and she insists on inviting all of them. she has no idea how sick it was for me to be with them. But, I have moved almost a hundred miles away and will be at the wedding and tell anyone who approaches me to leave me alone...period. Thank you and all the people in the mental health profession who recognize toxic families and other illnesses and reasons for them. It has helped me heal.

This is me - Chris - Dec 31st 2014

I am, and always was, the scapegoat child. I am #4 of 5, but the 'different' one in the family. The outgoing one, the one with a ton of friends, the one with the laughter. I became my Mother's target as a young child and today, she is 95 and has successfully blamed me for everything in her life and has gotten all of my siblings to blame me as well.

I walked away finally last Spring. I am 61 years old, and said, enough. I had no idea that this was something anyone else has gone thru.

Thank you for the informative article. I feel better already.

Scapegoat - vanda - Dec 31st 2014

You have said it all. Each time I read a post on this behavior it answers a question I have never understood. I lost my mom on Nov. 26/14. It was a nightmare. For years we were best friends and I looked out for her, with help from my younger sister, these last years with her COPD. The minute she went unconcious I was pushed out the door and the things they did to her were sickning but no one would listen to me. I am devastated by it all and have had no support in my grief. My darling sons. Thank you for them.

Separation--Then What? - Lora York - Dec 28th 2014

I am glad to read about scapegoating, but had already realized it as an adult. The final straw came when my adult siblings and I were attempting to place my mother in a facility when she began to develop Alzheimer's symptoms, like believing people were poisoning her. I said that wasn't Alzheimers. Didn't they remember 50 years ago that she thought the government, Communists, anyone was poisoning her? I remembered she was diagnosed as "paranoid schizophrenic" when I was 7 and she was committed. It had been going on for at least 15 years when I was born, the last of seven kids. I asked if we should tell the new caretaker. 

A barage of hate email came at me, each of them with different excuse: (1) She couldn't be schizophrenic, she was a successful nurse and doctors would have noticed. (2) She's not any different than religious people who keep diaries to Jesus and Mary. The 4-foot piles of "manuscripts" that mother wrote were just to Archaea Hope and Gabriel, that's all. (3) She did it (got committed, lost custody of all seven children, with no money) to get back at my father. (4) How could you sully the memory of our mother?

You get the idea. 

Suddenly I was aware of what had been going on all my life: The "family" exerted the pressure of the group to bully me to tow the line--whatever that was. When my mom was committed I missed her terribly and the other kids said, "You're crazy too. Go live with Mom." Everyone else acted as if she had never existed. And I was bulldozed out of expressing any of the very real grief I was experiencing. I am still paying for that. 

So, I did separate myself--from all of them, even the ones that were only partially abusive. It's been over 10 years. 

But now what? It feels as if there is this unresolved thing still there. Yes, it is a relief not to have their constant criticism, which I have taken as fact--that I can't do, do wrong, etc. 

They realize I am angry, but still aren't really taking responsibility for it. One brother called and said, "I always knew Mom was crazy." No you didn't--I have the emails to prove it! 

Somehow I need to make peace with the decisions I have made. It was necessary to give me breathing space, to allow my own family to grow up without that toxic criticism (although I am pretty good at it myself--to my kids and spouse). So now what? It feels like there is a final piece missing. 

I know the conventional wisdom is "just forgive". Do it for yourself, not them. But I can't seem to get there. I can see them without emotion and can know that they had their own reasons for trying to avoid the emotion of that time.

But the scapegoating was there and they all knew it. I was not only the scapegoat for 6 siblings but two parents (and one step-parent). And for that I can't forgive them. And what I was saying was true: We miss mom. She was schizophrenic. (One sister prevented me from obtaining the mental health records of her committment for a year. When I got them, six different doctors in two states confirmed the diagnosis of undifferentiated paranoid schizophrenia. Even with copies of the records, they haven't acknowledged or apologized. )

I see it--why can't they? And somehow I can't just say that I am "special" (i.e. more attuned) and not like them. We came from the same kind of training--spiritually, surprisingly from my mother. If it were in balance it would have been ideal. She just had a balance problem. 

So where do I go from here? How do I feel this is "completed"?

Scapegoating is it hereditary - Janice - Dec 25th 2014

wow, so glad I read this now I may be able to move forward knowin what my family problem is sadly my son treats me the same way.

The light dawns - EH - Dec 5th 2014

In the last week I have read other posts about being the whipping boy and it made me feel better to know I wasn't nuts for feeling picked on by my family. But this site makes me feel even better because several of you said you were in your 50's and older. I am 60 and was feeling dumb that I hadn't found out before now that this type of behavior happens to a lot of people.  (Hey, I'm a scapegoat - I'm used to feeling bad about myself.) The other sites seemed to be filled with teenagers and 20-somethings. 

I have been living my whole life with "What did I do wrong?" on my lips and in my mind. I distanced myself from my younger brother and sister years ago because they were unbelievably toxic toward me.  Then just this Thanksgiving my older brother did something.  He has done things to me in the past but never on the scale of the younger two.  This time it was bad.  I felt so bad about what he did to me that I went to a therapist (this is my 6th round with therapists - all have been wonderful - I go, get help with a specific thing and then take time off to think it over) and she told me about the "whipping boy" syndrome.  I have always felt I was the whipping boy in the family but thought "how crazy is that?" and continued to search for somehow I had caused their hatred toward me.  I knew Mom was nuts (out of 5 children, one committed suicide and the other 4 have no offspring)  but I couldn't believe that she could train her children into beating up on one of their siblings.  But that's exactly what happened. With this new realization, I am finally able to break all ties without feeling like I should hang on at least to one sibling "for the family sake".

Bless you all for posting here.  I wish you peace and love and calmness in your spirit and soul.  I plan on going on and having a wonderful, guilt-free life.  

"It's all your fault" - - Nov 28th 2014

There's a "joke" in my family.  If something goes wrong, it's MY fault.  We're all older now, in our 50's, and my mother in her 70's.  But she is always angry, and I'm her scapegoat.  I left home at 17 because of it, but returned when I lost my business and my home, and her health started to fail.  But she rants and raves every single day.  If I step and fetch for her, she is appeased for awhile, but if I say NO to one single thing, she starts in with "you're miserable and have always been that way.  You don't love me and you never did.  Everything's always about YOU!".  She'll tell this to any family member she can get ahold of.  I fight back sometimes but she just upps the ante and says worse and worse things.  I use too much toilet paper, I didn't wipe the water from the counter, I let the dogs onto the couch, blah blah blah.  The worst thing is, everyone she comes into contact with gets poisoned by her... they believe what she says about me and I have to stand there in my own integrity, trying to remind myself that I am NOT what she says I am.  It's a horrible thing to be around someone who hates you, and tells you so.  In this economy there are a lot of people who have been forced to "go home" in order to recover financially, and they pay a huge price by living with angry, volatile family members who know that you have no where else to go, and are therefore convenient targets for their abuse and, most likely, fear about their own demise.  I try to understand that she is sick, very sick psychologically and only getting worse, but she will follow me around the house screaming her abuse until I want to put a gun in my mouth.  Luckily I had 30 good years living away from the abuse so hopefully I can hang in there.  I take anti-anxiety medication because it gets to me after awhile.  The terrible thing is:  these people feel absolutely no compassion whatsoever for their victims of abuse.  Compassion is stomped out by them, and probably only makes them angrier.  It never works to try to get them to see that their are being horrible, it only makes my mother scream "STOP BEING SUCH A VICTIM" if I try to point out that she is unnecessarily screaming at me.  God help us all to stay sane in the face of these people.

solution - john - Nov 26th 2014

the best way to end the abuse is to get away from the toxic family, and move to anothervstate, never mention them to your new friends, avoid sll contract even if they seek you out,and i promise you they will look for you

In the same boat - mary diaz - Nov 18th 2014

Thank you for writing about scapegoating.I m a scapegoat as well. I m a 53 year old woman who had enough of my Mother. She is impossible to have any relationship with.She acts like a kook when confronted but she is not as stupid as she plays.And that is exactly what she does,plays. Her and my Golden brother put me, my husband and children in danger several years ago and I finally cut the ties. Then my brother died from cancer and my mother started trying to get back into my life only to be more cruel and mean.So I confronted her again only to be disowned by her.I m nothing to her. Never have been. She is one of the most cruelest, mean, people I know.I have confronted her so many times and all she does is lie, deceives,schemes,manipulates,gaslights and acts stupid. Then it gets put back all on me. I m fed up with her behavior. She has done so much to me in my childhood and hasnt stopped in my adulthood. I just couldn t  take it anymore.It mentally took it s toll. Now Ive been receiving cards in the mail from her that start out, \\

These people have nothing to offer. - Cal - Nov 2nd 2014

I have only recently read about 'scapegoating' it has gone some way to explaining my life.

My father left home, never to be seen again, when I was about 10, I can't say I  blame him.

My mother couldn't stand me, I assume because I had spent time with my father and she coildn't get me to join in With her hatred of him, I assume she re-directed that hatred on to me.

Anyway I spent decades doing everything I could for her, presumably in the hope I could get her to like me, but it was never enough.

My brothers were encouraged to mistreat me as well, the golden boy joined in very enthusiastically which made him even more favoured.

They did nothing, I joke with myself that i was 'Cinderalla' but I wasn't pretty and there was no Prince Charming.

I moved away but still sent money, don't recall ever hearing a 'thank you' even though very often I could not afford to give the money.

Eventually I realised these people had nothing to offer me, so for one week I didn't write to her (obviously this is some years ago) my brothers never wrote her a letter but I wrote every week, that one week was enough for me to never hear from her again.

She knew I was unwell and could have chosen to write to me but didn't it was only about what I could do for her, never what she should do for me.

I never had any doubt I did the right thing, it was a relief to escape the constanf critisism.

The old bag died about 20 years ago, I was not told of course, my ex-husband heard and told me.  it didn't really mean anything, my only sadness was that I never had a mother.

I have never heard from any 'family' for over 30 years, but there  is nothing to mis from them other than ridicule and abase.

I am sad when I see people with family as I don't know what that's like.

Sadly I feel she won as my life has been a misery and disaster, I have lived alone for 30 years without any friends or family but it is what it is.

Good luck everyone, my only suggestion is - if there are people in your life who have nothing good to offer you, remove them.

it may not make your life great but if you do it soon enough it will give you a chance to build a new life.

i left it to late to get away and didn't understand enough about 'scapegoating' I think if I had this information much sooner I could have used it to help me.

scapegoating - Dana - Oct 28th 2014

It's astounding how the pain of being the family doormat has not lessened as the years go by. I'm 45 and if anything, the pain has worsened.

 There was not much money growing up, but I received the least clothes and shoes of any of my siblings/stepsiblings. The pain of this inequitable treatment is undiminished by time.

As an adult I've developed a quick and defensive temper to stay armed against real or imagined maltreatment at work, among friends and in my marriage. I make a fool of myself at times, staunchly defending my right to breathe the same air as others.

I have a great therapist who helps me through the tougher moments, and I surround myself only with trusted friends and loved ones.

Parents love me just don't like me as a person - - Oct 20th 2014

my parents bring new meaning to scapgoating as well as overparenting. I have depressive bipolar and horrible adhd. The meaner my parents are to me the better they get along. 

I'm constantly "breaking my mothers heart" due to my lack of respect for house rules, i forgot that i cant eat food while sitting on the new couches, so I'm not allowed to sit on them till i learn my leason. I'm also grounded from my car unless i need to drive to an interview or doctor apt. im also not allowed to watch tv unless my parents are watching it to. And i cant expess my option because nobody cares because clearly i have no idea what I'm talking about. 

This is all because i apparently "refuse" to participate and contribute around the house and i fall asleep on the couch. (Normal people don't sleep in the living room. They sleep in beds) and get on a sleep schedual. Start using a weekly pill thing instead of carring all my pills. and i also need to get a better sence of time management  (cuz clearly they completly understand adha and bipolar disorder and like they tell our family counciler) 

did i mention i was 32 And single 

Yea so try explaing to a potential first date hi I'm cant meet up with you. I'm grounded

or a porential employer why your phone was cut off even though its the number on your resume. 

Scapegoated to almost death... - - Oct 15th 2014

There should be more information like this available to the masses. I spent years being accused and rejected on numerous levels by my entire family. From the outside, it appeared that we had the perfect family, an upstanding father in a prominent position, a doting stay at home Mom, a brother who is a lawyer, another a chemist, an angel sister, but underneath it all was a seathing resentment towards me that I did not recognize until years later. There was no physical abuse, my parents didnt have addictions or obvious mental issues. My father and my 3 siblings would sit at our dinner table, taking turns dismissing me, my ideas, my beliefs, my emotions, ect. My mother tried to protect me, but, in the form of smothering, I lived it, but to this day I can barely understand my family dynamics and its deep complexity. This little known form of abuse can manifest itself for its own sake, it took on a gang mentality, intellectual tag teams, scapegoating at its best. I assumed that I deserved to be dismissed and rejected, later seeking out men who would hurt me physically and mentally, for this was my comfort zone and what I was used to. So much happended on the in between, but,  I will never understand what happened in the end...I had a son, he assumed my families position of scapegoating me, he was a difficult child to say the least, one night he snapped and beat me unconcious, I ended up in the hospital with the police at my bedside. My family had abandoned me. No one would return my calls, I was uninvited from holidays, for this too was twisted into being my fault. I was being victimized for being the victim! I have never shared this with but a few close friends who were there for me, who are my real family, its just too complicated and misunderstood. Its not been easy to live with, to sort through, to deal with, and even my closest confidants dont understand the dynamics of what has been my family life. I always thought it would make an interesting case study, but, like you said, those involved are blind to their own actions. Almost 50 years old and am just beginning to realize, it wasnt me, I did nothing to deserve it and, unlike them, I am stronger for it. 

It is hard accepting what it is - Kayte - Oct 12th 2014

I am my parents second child and look like a relative my mother felt  had been given more love than her young self. We have had a constantly moving yo-yo relationship since my birth. Maniacal physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse. I thought my name was nobody-wants-you, my sister said this, too. The blows stopped when I started school. By then I was nervous of all adults. But the school was wonderful, questioning things regularly. My father had found my beating-up amusing but not joined in. Age nine he decided I should be his little wife. In the midst of this, he believed he had strangled me to death. I came round hours later. My Nanna said I must keep silent and I did, not understanding I had a small brain injury and internal injuries.  It was a dreadful time.  My Nanna never forgave herself.  Years later, it is all my fault for being born!! And my sister is the worse of them all, in many ways. It seems she resented Nanna\\\'s time attempting to mend me.  The rejection still hurts, honestly. But my birth family is absolutely toxic. They are as they are. I spend time with people who love me, instead.

I couldn't have said it better! - Kari Bennett - Oct 10th 2014

Dear Sir,

Thank you for taking the time to write this article.  For years, I have been through hell not only as a recovering addict but then as the scapegoat to my family who can not get over the fact that I became an addict!!  My mother was an addict, the oldest of four children, she passed from an overdose related death when she was 37.  I never dreamed(who does?) that me, a loving mother, a hard working RN in NP grad school, would become an addict after years of emotional stress from non-stop work and being the mother of a severely disabled child with MR.  It just happened!  I went through a few years of screwing up, giving up, suicide attempts, domestic abuse before I found my strength to recover only to discover I had a genetic condition that gave me chronic pancreatitis which was one of the reasons for my addiction.  I had to have a whipple with complete pancreas removal and my family reacted to the surgery with panic and ridiculed me in public as I lay fighting for my life for months.  They couldn't cope(and still can't) that I had to have narcotics for a damned surgery and can't take care of my very disabled son!! Addicts get sick too!  It was humilating and they acted as if I was under a bridge somewhere or in jail again.  I finally gave up, severed ties after I asked them to go to family therapy with me and they refused just as you wrote.  It has been 6 months since my whipple and I am sober and I only use medications if absolutely neccessary as I still endure tremendous pain at times and constant malnutrition with very brittle diabetes.  It hasn't been that long and I am doing amazing considering everything that I have been through!  I started writing a book shortly before my illness began last spring and have been able to start it again a couple of months ago.  I have an amazing loving boyfriend, his family and other loved ones who give me unconditional love and support.  My family has no idea nor do they care of my ongoing struggles with this illness.  All they care about is what I did years ago and use what happened in my past continuously to guide them in what they choose to believe my life is today.  I am a very strong woman and I can firmly say that they refuse to change anything about their behaviors or defaults of character while I have had years of therapy and am aware of mine and what issues I have.  A million sorries have never been enough and I don't think a million more will ever be.  Unless some other poor cousin becomes the pitiful type of person that I was for a very brief time in my life, I will always be the evil scapegoat.  Always.  Thank you for study and research in this very real family problem.  I live it and it hurts!!!

Scapegoat - - Sep 29th 2014

Thank you this made me realize how toxic my family situation is. As a child I was often made fun of by my family for factors I could not control and was under constant pressure. This article was instrumental to realizing I just needed to get out of that situation, before it got worse than it was.

Thank you for this assurance - Scapegoatnomore - Sep 23rd 2014

I have recently confronted my enabling father regarding scapegoating since my sisters started this mess and we're backstabbing me. I confronted them but he wanted me to apologize and I told him that I will not apologize for the mistakes if others. Because of this, I was depressed and suicidal until I came across scapegoating. Everything clicked. I told my dad about it but he refused to accept it and told me that I am the one scapegoating my family. I use them, my anger towards my family as an excuse to be nasty. It doesn't even make any sense. I know I react violently but that's the effect of years of emotional abuse and being labeled and the black sheep. I'm in therapy and attend self-help seminars, the only one in my family so for my dad to say that I don't look at myself and reflect? What a load of crap. This is the day I decided to shut the door on them. By the way, my dad insinuated that backstabbing is ok in the family because they are just words and to not face my problems and to just pray to god and he thinks that the family is not dysfunctional??

Sick family - Ferd - Sep 6th 2014

I come from a very sick and abusive family. I remember when I had 3 or 4 years old, I looked the pictures family and feel hate. I point my fingers like a gun and disare to kill my family...years later I realized this was because I suffer abuse from early age. I always hated my parents and dont knew why, but now I now, and know very well. My parents yelling at me all the time, beat me, judge me, even with a whip, piece of wood or eletrical cable. I went off when I was 21 years old, from that point a talk only over the phone with my family like 6 times a years and yes, if I dont talk that way, the situation come back again and again and never stop. For me, my parents die in complety misery, I dont care I only laugh. Im really tired for this situation, this take me yeeeeeaaaaarrrss thinking about this, about that, why this, why that, and I loose a lot time in my life thinkin and thinking why this and that. Now, no more suicidal thoughts, only live 'normal' life and dont give a d. To my parents thats now is sick and old. bad people desire contempt, Im not stupid, I dont care for someone who made my life a miserable, even if is a parents. Now I m 'free', I cant even see theirs faces...this put me very angry. 

I never realized it until now - Marilyn - Sep 3rd 2014

My father passed away two months ago.  He was 91.  My stepmother tells me now I am not allowed to ever come back to my Dad and Mom's house.  The scapegoating  by my eldest brother to me through the years has poisoned our entire family. Our family was toxic from it's beginning.  It has carried through 65 years and  now manifested itself in the stepmother and every relationship in the family. As a child, I remember my now deceased  Mother and my  Dad fought constantly.  Dad was a rage-a-holic.  He had a miserable childhood, and he physcially abused my older brother with beatings. He would then show favoritism to me (as a little girl). This caused intense hatred and jealousy between us as siblings.  My older brother in turn abused me physically, mentally, and every other unmentionable way you can imagine when he could get away with it.  As we grew into adults, Dad went in to denial of these problems as though they never existed, and brother did his best to convince everyone I was to be hated. I became the scapegoat of all the family issues.  It was the shame that did it.   It is unbelievable the gang mentality that can take over a family and no one even realizes it through the years.  Perception is everything, and can be so easily manipulated by toxic people.  I have received years of therapy for this, although I am sure my brother has not.  He hates me to this day, and everyone in the family including my stepmother believe him that I am somehow defective and sinister. Of course they do not know about the sexual abuse I suffered from him as little girl.  Later in life,  my Dad as he became infirm and more dependent on my stepmother, did not stand up for me through rudeness, not being invited to weddings, left out of most everything and only tolerated with indifference. Dad even called me and asked me not to come to the hospital to visit him after major surgery because my stepmother would be there. My brother would not visit the hospital if he knew I was there.  I haven't had a real conversation with my eldest brother in 50 years.   Now that Dad is dead, I have been completely ostracized by both the eldest and younger brother, sister-in-law and all of my stepmother's family.    My husband cannot believe what evil people they are.

Somehow Dad allowed his mental pain to taint every relationship he had.  He would love you one minute and hate you the next.  He criticized everyone behind their backs.  AlthoughI know my dad loved me deeply, he caused some really screwed up family's relationships.  He really mentally abused my mother during her lifetime.

All the bad family dynamics exploded in full force after he died.  There is no grieving together.  Everyone has decided I am the reason for all of the pain in their lives.  It is so untrue.  The more I tried to please them, the more I was disliked and my intentions degraded to fit their hatred.

I know I am a good person, a good nurse, a good mother and a good wife.  The lifelong depression has been really hard, and I have been in therapy for years learning to how to love myself and believe that I am lovable as well.

thank you - Megan Lyden - Aug 28th 2014

Dr. Schwartz,

Thank you for your article.  It rang completely true with me.  My father was an alcoholic; my mother came from an abusive family.  I was the first-born and became my mother's scapegoat.  It mainly manifested itself in beating; my mother was extremely physically abusive to me. She was smart enough to not break bones or bruise badly, but there was punching, pulled hair, I was often thrown up against a wall while she went at it.  I remember a very bad beating from when I was 5 or 6 years old; I know my age because we moved a lot and I remember what house it happened in.  My 2 sisters were younger than me; my mother raised them to have the same contempt of me that she had.  i don't believe my mother ever beat either of my sisters; if she did, I never saw it.   On one horrible occasion, when I was home from college, my mother started beating me and my sisters joined in.  I suffered from suicidal depression for years after that.  In my adulthood, I tried to be the "perfect" daughter to make up for all the lost time, but it didn't work; my mother didn't hit anymore but she was dismissive, mean and extremely jealous and competitive with me.  I wrote her a letter telling her that I didn't expect her to be perfect, but that when she went off on me, she needed to apologize, just like everyone else does.  She had nothing to do with me after that. So far as my sisters,  rather than acknowledge that the whole family is sick, they target me as the cause of all the problems.  Several years ago, the youngest sister actually moved to the city that I live in ; everything went fine as long as my husband and I accomodated her every need, which I did, thinking it would keep down the inevitable tension that arose whenever I was around my mother or siblings. However, I couldn't keep it up and when I set  boundaries, I had hell to pay.  My sister went through the motions of a few counseling sessions but then wouldn't continue and wrote a letter "dismissing" me from her life.  Unfortunately, it severed my ties to my brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew, who I loved.  Although my life is good, I still get depressed, but I accept it's something I will always have to live with and as long a it doesn't color everything, I can cope with it.  The real irony of this is that my middle sister counsels people.  In order to be a counselor, I know that she has had to receive a lot of counseling herself.  I don't believe she has ever been honest with a counselor about the extent of my mother's abuse towards me. 

A Million Thanks - - Aug 24th 2014

I am in my forties and only came to realize what happened to me a few years ago. I continue to research this topic and hadn't seen this article before.

One of the hardest things about being a scapegoat is that the family will never get it, let alone admit it. But it helps to be validated through others and articles such as this one.

I have just begun therapy (again) and brought up this issue as something I want to focus on, but because I have emotional issues (understandably), I worry that the counselor will not believe me and think I am being manipulative or that this is all in my imagination. How could I be right while the rest of my family is wrong? Doesn't sound reasonable, you know?

I cut off my entire immediate and extended family four months ago, except for my mother. I feel guilty not talking to her at all because she is elderly and is also very good at playing the martyr ("My daughter won't talk to me anymore"--I'm sure a lot of people are hearing this). I only discuss necessary business with her and do not tell her anything personal. I will never be normal, but I am out of the drama and have a chance to get better.

Thank you - Kay Aauhss - Aug 20th 2014

Reading this article was like looking in a mirror.  Finally after several attempts, I 

have severed ties with my very abusive family.  Tonight, I was online looking for reinforcement

Of my decision.  This scapegoat has become an 'Escape'goat!  Thank you again for sharing your wisdom.

This article rings true for me - Margaret - Aug 10th 2014


Thank you for this article. I come from a toxic family that finally at the age of 50yo I have decided to disengage, dissociate and distance from. I still actively keep in contact with the elderly parents. But I have been scape-goated from childhood from my mother and siblings. 2 of my siblings have addiction issues and I am thankful that somehow I didn't end up with an addiction issue. Anyway there are plenty of people to be-friend out there who do not belittle you and respect you as a person.  Have a good day :)


I raed about the family scapegoat - Caroline - Aug 9th 2014

I read this artical about one member in the family becoming the scapegoat. I will explain what is happening now he is no longer accepting this roll.

My husband came home from the military after no leave or R and R for three and ahalf years due to the needs of the navy.

When he came home it was to an openly hostil family, community and society because he did not reenlist, and came back to claim his civilian job back. He was coming back To a big three auto manufacturing job with by contract his military time counted as seniority, my husbands father and over fifty friends determined he might be coming home, and had rights that he was not going to use them.

For 16 years i denied sex at the request of his father, To get him to cooperate with everyone, Ipromised if he could just cooperate with what others wanted we would be a real marriage.

Over this issue he tried divorce twice, but the state did not want to take on my mental illness of bi polar and issued a gaurdianship.

Over 32 years my husband was either working or in a medical facility, When therewere terrible arguments aboutmy husband making lessor senority work insteadof my husband, It was pointed out there is always tomorrow, or look atthe glass half full. but it allowed other men and women the free time around holidays, vacations, and weekends to take care of thier needs. Well things became a habit and tradition, My husband started to behome this year for them, He is cripled now due to MRSA causing a slip in his spine crushing the cord. But now he is really grinding the traditions that he was not a part of into the dirt, Even with violence he wont be told by anyone there are things he can;\\\'t be a part of, he inserts himself, it has everyone terrified.

Last year I was going to a political function with a friend of his fathers, hecame home early from a 2 week stay in a stress center, and informed me of two things, First i promissed to meet any where he wanted after the event and we would talk things through. He told me my promises meant nothing. Then He informed me I owed a 31 year note collectible that night. I said there was no way that was happening until he compromised about he event, He said wnna bet. I took off for the door and he ripped my dress off, saw what underthings i was wearing and said tonight you are my wife, He forced me to do what I had denied  31 years, since then everything that is done in his home or with me he inserts his will on it, To the point of backhanding his father across the kitchen.

He is seeing a counsilor and is cinsidered PTSD efective, They have been of no help in keeping him from asserting his rights when they aren\\\'t wanted.

Is there somthing me or anything else be offered to try and get him to not assert himself now, It ticking people off.

I inherited the role of scapegoat. - - Aug 2nd 2014

Until I was 15 my aunt lived with us and she was the family scapegoat. After she died that role fell to me. I am 68 now and both my parents are dead, but I still live with the hurt of their rejection, and it is carried on by my elder sister who still finds ways to abuse me.

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