- In the dysfunctional narcissistic family system, the golden child is the most likely to develop a narcissistic personality.
- Sibling abuse by a favored narcissistic brother usually follows a predictable pattern of behavior.
- There are strategies that can help protect you from a narcissistic brother's abuse.
Dysfunctional, narcissistic families typically feature inequities, and one of the most common is parental favoritism of one child over another. In a survivalist, hierarchical narcissistic family system, there are many reasons parents choose to elevate one child and devalue another, including personality traits, birth order, and gender.
Of all the roles children play in the narcissistic family, the favored "golden" child is most likely to develop a narcissistic personality because of the toxic mix of enmeshment, neglect, and entitlement they experience. When the child is male, the entitlement and drive to feel special are compounded by societal male hegemony, low emotional literacy, and normalized male aggression.
Is Your Golden Child Brother a Narcissist?
For siblings, particularly girls, a narcissistic golden child brother can be a profound source of emotional and perhaps physical and sexual trauma. Is your brother a narcissist? Is he scapegoating you? Here are signs:
- Dismisses your feelings and opinions.
- Blames you for family conflict.
- Blames you for your parents' abusiveness toward you.
- Acts as a flying monkey for your narcissistic parents.
- Doesn't ask about your life.
- Contradicts and corrects you.
- Insists on being right.
- Constantly competes.
- Interrupts, monologues, and interrogates.
- Projects his antagonism onto you.
- Acts bored or irritated when you speak.
- Expects attention, agreement, and/or caretaking without reciprocating.
- Is reactive to disagreement or perceived criticism.
- Is verbally and/or physically threatening or abusive.
- Is judgmental of your choices and lifestyle.
- Disrespects your partner.
- Respects your partner over you.
- Withholds family information from you.
- Allows your narcissistic parents to triangulate your communication.
- Denies and gaslights you about family dysfunction.
- Plays the cool rationalist.
- Says or implies you're too sensitive when you react to abuse.
- Sets you up for sabotage.
- Does not acknowledge your experience, knowledge, and accomplishments.
- Displaces his anger at your parents onto you.
- Participates in your parents' smear campaigns against you.
One of the most tragic aspects of life in a narcissistic family system is the erosion and loss of sibling bonds. Narcissistic parents deliberately sow division among siblings as a way to destabilize family members, exert control, feel powerful, and feed on drama. Children who adopt their parents' narcissistic patterns lose or fail to develop empathy and internalize the belief that vulnerability is weakness, love is conditional, and rights and respect are reserved for a chosen few. Often a golden child builds their identity around feeling superior to a subjugated sibling, creating lifelong alienation and cruelty.
Strategies to Protect Yourself
For sisters or brothers experiencing ongoing inequity and abuse by a narcissistic sibling, the safest course is to limit or end contact. If you are not able to distance yourself, here are some strategies to protect yourself:
- Stop seeking validation. Stop looking for acknowledgment, understanding, or fairness from your narcissistic sibling (or parents). Your brother's superior status in the family hierarchy was created by your parents, and his sense of identity and self-esteem are heavily dependent on your inferior status in the family. In other words, to feel special he must see you as beneath him; as a narcissist, that feels like survival to him.
- Don't make yourself vulnerable. Stop explaining and justifying yourself to your narcissistic brother, and don't share your thoughts and feelings with him. It's difficult to accept, but he doesn't care about your needs, feelings, reasons, or perspective, and may use your vulnerability against you.
- Let go of your fantasy of resolution. Children, particularly scapegoated ones, often harbor hope long into adulthood that their golden child sibling will someday gain awareness and reach out to offer acknowledgement and make amends. There may be moments when your narcissistic brother discusses family dysfunction or your parents' selfishness and cruelty. He may even express vulnerability and seek sympathy or support from you about family dynamics. For people with empathy, it's natural to feel compassion for narcissistic family members and hold out hope for resolution of family divisions. But it's important to recognize that although your brother may have moments of insight, he is unlikely to sustain it or look beyond his own experience to reflect on yours.
Having to distance yourself from or let go of narcissistic family members is always fraught with doubt, loneliness, and grief. When it is a sibling you have played with, suffered with, perhaps admired, protected, or taken care of, the loss can bring deep and long-lasting grief. It may be the hardest grief of all.