Some families have one child who is both scapegoat and golden child. It’s especially common in families who have an only child. You can imagine how crazy-making this would be. As bad as being a scapegoat is, at least there’s predictability–you know you’ll ALWAYS be treated badly, ALWAYS punished, ALWAYS criticized or diminished. In a family where one child fills both the SG and GC roles, they never know if they’ll be rewarded or punished for the very same thing from one minute to the next. Such children are held to impossibly high expectations (Golden Child) but are not allowed to outshine the narcissistic parent. If they do so, they will be viciously devalued or punished.
There are two “solutions” to this problem, from the child’s point of view (outside of suicide or straight up insanity). Of course the child is never consciously aware they are doing this.
1. The child will develop BPD.
Such an unpredictable and chaotic environment doesn’t allow the development of a proper “false self” and the child never learns to regulate their emotions because they never know how anyone will react to anything or what will happen in any given situation. They are forced to become emotional chameleons and are at risk of becoming codependent to malignant or high spectrum grandiose narcissists.
2. The child will develop Covert/Fragile Narcissism.
If the child is expected to fulfill some unrealistic standards (typical of the GC) and at the same time doesn’t dare to outshine the NPD parent because of the negative consequences they’ll face if they do, the child has to find a way to “bridge the gap” between the impossibly high expectations put on them and the simultaneous expectation to always be in the NPD parent’s shadow. Becoming a covert or fragile (“victim”) narcissist as a defense against this type of psychological abuse would explain their sense of entitlement and seething resentment and envy of others that can only be expressed passive-aggressively and never directly, co-existing with feelings of unworthiness, self-hatred, and shame. This type of narcissist can become codependent to a more aggressive or overt/grandiose narcissist.
Whether a child develops BPD or a covert/fragile form of NPD may have to do with innate temperament, or they may shade into each other, since they can be very hard to tell apart. In the U.S., most covert or fragile narcissists are diagnosed with something else–most frequently BPD, PTSD, Social Anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome/high functioning autism, or Avoidant Personality Disorder.