7 Traits Of The Golden Child (And How They're Influenced By Narcissistic Parents)

Here's how favoritism affects children.

little girl in a golden rain jacket, as it rains. Yuganov Konstantin via Canva

Before going into the details of the concept of golden child syndrome, know that every parent dreams of a golden child until they know the making of one. 

Parents want their children to get access to the best resources possible and they toil hard to provide them with the necessary education, shelter, food, and comfort.

To say the least, parents have in mind the best interests of their children. But in a family where either of the parents shows narcissistic traits or is clinically diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder, the dynamics vary greatly. 


RELATED: How To Know If You Were Raised By Truly Narcissistic Parents

What is the Golden Child Syndrome?

In a healthy family structure, the parents are self-assured and provide their children with a warm and productive environment to ensure their overall development. Such parents know how to balance the need to exercise control over their children and procure autonomy.


Healthy parents rely on transparency, empathy, and understanding to grow a secure attachment with their children. They do not depend on criticism, body shaming, guilt-tripping, and other dark manipulative techniques to create broken, insecure, self-effacing, and anxious children.

Narcissistic parents have no sense of self and they live their entire life behind the facade of a pretentious self. This self requires constant feeding to sustain.  

A family where either or both of the parents are narcissists means that the child becomes a mere source of narcissistic supply to keep the fake self surviving. Something that is supposed to be nurturing and containing structure to build a healthy child, turns into a drama in which the child plays the role of rescuer and sacrifices his own sense of self to cater to his/her parent's fake self. 

The parent's boundaries are diffused with that of their child and the child never acquires a completely individualistic sense of self and this is how the golden child is made.


The golden child is fundamentally an extension of the narcissistic parent. 

Hence, he or she is the embodiment of perfection, the "good child," the "special child" who is a projection of all the impeccable characteristics of the parent and hence, should strive regularly to inculcate and facilitate those qualities of a virtuous person, the ones their parents portray.

Everything the child touches turns to gold, hence the name.

A golden child cannot shake off the feeling that he/she is special but is unable to find within oneself the grounds on why it should be so. There is an underlying longing to be accepted as they are, with their imperfections and frailties, rather than being praised for the glossed person which they are not. 


What is a scapegoat child?

Narcissistic parents see their children as an extension of themselves, for the scapegoat child, it's everything they don't like. In a narcissistic family, a scapegoat child is the selected child in the family that takes on the baggage of everything narcissistic parents don't like about themselves.

Having a scapegoat child is also a way of exerting control and using scapegoating as a tool which is often presented as a needed discipline.

It can be commonly noted by a comparison feature to the golden child of the family, "If you were like your sibling you wouldn't have done this or you would've done that". This also reinforces the golden child to please their parents more. 


However, some people say it is better to have been the scapegoat compared to the golden child because you leave with slightly less psychological damage, though it's still no picnic to go through. The scapegoat relatively leaves with their own identity and sense of reality that they can connect with others, while the golden child has a hard time finding a sense of self. Though trauma is all internal and affects people differently.

Now that you know how a golden child in a narcissistic family comes into being, let’s look at some of the traits of a golden child.

Here are 7 traits of the golden child, and how they're influenced by narcissistic parents:

1. They are competitive

As earlier mentioned, a golden child is a reflection of a narcissistic parent. This child is very competitive in nature, always striving to win.

In a narcissistic family, the children are pitted against one another to encourage competition. So, this golden child grows up very competitive in nature.


They often take personal risks to ensure they secure the first position, in all aspects of life. Their self-confidence and sense of self-esteem are based on external sources of reinforcement, like achievements, praises, and titles. This takes me to the second characteristic which is...

RELATED: How I (Barely) Survived My Narcissist Mother

2. They are studious

Which kid loves studying? None other than the golden child in a narcissistic family. Unlike other kids, he or she is extremely excited about going to school and taking part in competitive events that they love. 

School is the best place to be. In fact, going to school, for them, is the most fun part of the day. They thrive the best in competitive situations. They are bold and upfront in handling the competition.


No doubt, they are the celebrated star of the class. Never failing to secure a place in the good books of the teacher because they shine.

They literally set a milestone for their fellow students. They would rather teach his/her friends a few intellectual topics that need help with their homework.

3. They abide by their parent's rules

One can find most children being rebellious on being dictated to and controlled. But to a golden child, the rules set by their parents are the ultimate rule book for them.

They never question their parent's decisions. They even end up sacrificing their choices to take up the choices of their parents. 

4. They have productive hobbies

Video games and television shows are not the golden child’s cup of tea. They prefer engaging themselves in truly inspiring and fruitful hobbies, which provides them the chance to improve themselves. 


They find better investments of time in reading books, getting down involved in sports, playing an instrument, painting, or doing creative activities.

5. They are sociable

This child is the talker, the attention grabber of the lot. They are the center of attention at a house party. All the other children in their friend circle look up to him/her. 

They are often armed with good communication skills and convincing capabilities, while themselves being non-credulous. They also have a natural knack for sports and outdoor games.

6. They are sensitive to criticism

This child knows that he/she is exclusive. They know that they are not like the rest of the other children. Oftentimes, they hold themselves on a higher pedestal than they could be accredited to. 


Being hypersensitive to criticism, they do not like getting slagged for whatever they say or do. 

RELATED: The Meanest Sibling, According To Research

7. They seek perfection

Ever since a very young age, this child has a tendency to be obsessed with perfection. They want their dress all clean and tidy, food just like they want it, their rooms organized and in order, and their homework should be free of mistakes. 

They frustrate themselves when they fail to live up to their own unrealistic expectations. 

The Golden Child Syndrome has lasting effects into adulthood.

Oh boy! The description looks clean. Who doesn’t want to be a golden child? And if you are an expecting mother, yes, this is how you want your kid to be — full of virtues. 


But many fail to see the fragile personality in making, behind the mask of aura and glamour. Everything they touch is gold (hence the name) until they grow up and their world crumbles into a ruin of disorientation.

A golden child will seldom develop psychologically and emotionally to individuate. This means these children growing up struggle to find an identity for themselves.

On growing up, these children will almost be disabled to take care of themselves and to make one’s own decisions. 

A golden child who has undergone narcissistic parenting might have the following psycho-emotional problems when they grow up:

1. They tend to be hyper-vigilant and have obsessive traits.

2. They're hypersensitive to criticism.

3. They tend to be paranoid.

4. They don't fully understand or respect boundaries in relationships.

5. They are people-pleasers.

6. They have poor decision-making skills.

7. They present poor judgment.

8. They crave constant attention.

9. They have difficulty dealing with hurdles and daily hassles.

10. They lack emotional sensitivity and tend to become detached. They fail to make meaningful connections.

11. They often manipulate people or relationships for their own benefit.

12. They're uncomfortable with uncertainty.

13. They often grow up to have narcissistic traits themselves.

Can the golden child become a narcissist?


It depends on how strong-willed the child is, but sometimes, yes they can. The golden child is being molded into becoming a mini-me of their parents. They are given and presented to the worldview of the damaged parents and while being given all or most of the attention they absorb emotional damage alongside it.

The above-mentioned truths portray the costly side effect of favoritism. Pretty much every family has a golden child and it not only impacts the child but also anyone who is closely associated with him/her, especially his/her siblings. 

As a parent, the least you can do is never forget to allow your child to exercise the autonomy they deserve. The following words by Erik Erikson are for you to read and imbibe in yourself as a parent:

"Parents must not only have certain ways of guiding by prohibition and permission, but they must also be able to represent to the child a deep, almost somatic conviction that there is meaning in what they are doing." — Erik Erikson


RELATED: Your Parent's Most Favorite Child, Based On Birth Order — Revealed

Shreyasi Debnath is a psychologist and writer who focuses on mental health, self-care, and self-love.