I came across an old xerox from an unidentified textbook about psychology that I saved from way back and now wanted to share a bit I found about scapegoating. I think it’s behind alot of our problems in the ways we treat people and how we’re treated.
Often one child in a family is singled out as the recipient of the most abuse. Reasons for this type of selection are complex and varied. Usually scapegoating begins at a very early age, sometimes at birth. Infants who are irritable, colicky and who do not respond well to parental nurturing may become targets for abuse. Premature infants are more likely to become scapegoats than those carried to full term.
Scapegoating is frequently described as an interactive process in which the child’s physical, social or psychological characteristics combine with those of the parent to increase the likelihood of abuse. Children perceived as difficult or unresponsive or hyperactive are at risk. Other traits can include psychological impairment, learning disabilities or chronic illness.
Caretakers of scapegoated children range from normally capable persons under stress to those with severe psychopathology. Parents may perceive a particular child as reflecting their own defects or inadequecies. In such situations the parent’s self-hatred is misdirected toward the child. The child has become a symbol of all the parent dislikes in him or herself.
Maltreatment by caretakers is quickly internalized by children. Scapegoated children come to have low self-esteem and see themselves as bad and deserving of punishment. As they grow older many of these children actually seek punishment by acting out at home or in school. They may also invite abuse from peers by taunting and provoking them. Because the children see themselves as deserving of abuse they offer only token self-defense when they are subsequently attacked.
As they grow older, victims of severe scapegoating continue to have difficulty in establishing close relationships with peers, teachers and others. Prolonged treatment is often required to help these children develop a capacity for displaying warmth toward themselves and others.