Golden Child Syndrome (Signs, Causes, And How To Overcome)

Welcome to our look at the “golden child” issue in families—when one child is favored over the others. This can really affect how the family gets along and everyone’s well-being. In this post, we’ll explore what it means to be the “golden child”, why it happens, how it impacts the favored child and their siblings, and ways to create more fair family relationships.

Family dynamics play a big role in our relationships and overall health. When one child is excessively favored or treated as more special, it can throw off the family dynamics in harmful ways. Understanding and dealing with this issue is important for building healthier, more balanced family connections where everyone feels equally valued.

First, we’ll define what “golden child” syndrome means and look at how it impacts both the favored child and their brothers/sisters. Then we’ll discuss reasons why some parents favor one child over others. Finally, we’ll suggest actions to reduce the negative effects and create a family environment where each child feels valued and listened to equally.

What Is Golden Child Syndrome?

Understanding Golden Child Syndrome

Golden child syndrome happens when one child is treated as superior or more valued than their siblings by one or both parents. This favored child is often put on a pedestal and seen as capable of no wrong.

For example, if a daughter gets straight A’s, the parents may praise her constantly as being brilliant and gifted. However, if her brother also gets good grades, it may be overlooked or not celebrated as much. The golden child’s achievements and positive qualities are excessively praised and promoted.

At the same time, the other, non-favored children’s successes and good qualities may be criticized, minimized, or even ignored by the parents. The parents hold the golden child to lower standards of behavior as well. If the golden child acts out, it may be excused as “just a phase”, while the other siblings face harsher discipline for the same actions.

This excessive favor and different standards can lead to problems like:

  • The golden child feeling overwhelming pressure to achieve and be perfect
  • Low self-esteem/feelings of neglect in the non-favored kids
  • Resentment, anger and poor relationships between siblings
  • The golden child using their favored status to manipulate/mistreat others

Golden child syndrome disrupts normal family dynamics and can leave psychological scars even in adulthood if unaddressed. Both the favored and non-favored kids miss out on the nurturing family environment all children need.

Signs Of Golden Child Syndrome

1. Excessive Praise for One Child

One of the clearest signs is when parents excessively praise, compliment, and admire one child over the others. Even small accomplishments by the “golden child” are celebrated as if they walked on water. But the other siblings’ successes get little notice or are criticized.

For example, if the golden child gets a B+, the parents may call them a genius, but if another sibling gets an A-, it’s treated as no big deal.

2. Different Rules Apply

The golden child seems to live by a different set of rules. Their bad behavior is made excuses for, while the other kids face harsh discipline for those same actions.

A non-favored child being 5 minutes late for curfew may get grounded, but the golden child’s tardiness of an hour gets brushed off as “no big deal, they’re still learning.”

3. Suppressing Other Siblings

When a non-golden child gets an award or accomplishment, it’s downplayed, criticized or completely ignored by the parents.

Their achievements are suppressed or diminished so the golden child can remain the star. The parents may say things that make it crystal clear who the favorite is, like “Sarah is our smart one.”

4. Emotional Parentification

In some cases, the golden child is treated more like a friend or spouse than a child. Inappropriate adult conversations or emotional reliance is placed on this child, violating normal parent-child boundaries. The golden child gets an undue burden of responsibility placed on them from an early age.

5. Scapegoating Other Siblings

On the flip side, the non-favored kids often get punished, blamed or treated as scapegoats in the family, even when they did nothing wrong.

If there’s a mess or issue in the home, those other siblings automatically get accused and disciplined, regardless of facts. Their voice gets silenced while the golden child is blindly believed.

6. Lack of Boundaries

The golden child often has few rules or boundaries enforced on their behavior. They get away with actions that would be unacceptable for other siblings. This lack of discipline can enable them to become spoiled, selfish or develop a superiority complex over their brothers and sisters.

Example: The golden child routinely treats other family members disrespectfully, but the parents do nothing to correct this behavior.

7. Golden child will strat Denying Realities

Parents favoring the golden child sometimes outright deny realities that conflict with their perfect view of this child. Any failures, flaws or bad behaviors get swept under the rug. The golden child can do no wrong in their eyes, even when evidence shows otherwise.

Example: If the golden child is caught cheating on a test, rather than holding them accountable, the parents insist the teacher made a mistake or has it out for their “perfect” child.

8. Competing for Love

The clear favoring of one child forces the others into an unhealthy competition for their parents’ love and attention. They may go to extremes trying to please their parents and be the next “golden child” to get that affection they so deeply crave.

Example: Siblings lash out, act rebelliously or develop self-destructive behaviors stemming from their feelings of being unloved or never measuring up.

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9. Anxiety and Guilt

For the golden child themselves, the excessive favor and pressure to stay on that pedestal can breed intense anxiety. They may also feel guilty over how their siblings get treated, damaging family relationships.

Example: The golden child develops perfectionist tendencies, an inflated ego, or substance abuse issues from inability to handle the expectations.

If multiple signs from excessive favoring, different standards, and dysfunctional family roles persist over time, it indicates an unhealthy golden child syndrome dynamic. This negatively impacts all involved.

Causes of Golden Child Syndrome

Causes of Golden Child Syndrome

Here are some common causes of golden child syndrome:

1. Parental Projection

  • Parents may see the favored child as an extension of themselves or a way to live vicariously
  • They project their own unmet dreams and expectations onto this child

2. Compensating for Insecurities

  • Parents overcompensate for their own perceived failures or shortcomings by favoring one child
  • The golden child represents their second chance at the success they lacked

3. Narcissistic Parenting

  • Narcissistic parents need constant praise and admiration
  • They create a golden child as a source of this narcissistic supply and favored status

4. Falling Short of Expectations

  • If a child’s temperament, interests or abilities don’t match the parents’ expectations
  • Another child who aligns more with their desires gets favored instead

5. Perceived Similarities

  • Parents consciously or unconsciously favor a child they see more similarities with
  • This could be based on looks, personality traits, skills or interests they value

6. Role Assignments

  • Parents assign specific roles to children based on birth order stereotypes
  • Firstborn is expected to be the high-achiever and dubbed the golden child

7. Playing Favorites

  • Some parents have biases toward a specific gender, age spacing or other factors
  • This overt favoritism sees them investing more in that golden child

While the causes vary, the core issue is parents placing greater significance and esteem on one child over others based on subjective preferences rather than equitable love and acceptance of all their children.

Golden child syndrome, characterized by parental favoritism towards one child, can have a lasting impact on family dynamics. Understanding the underlying causes of this syndrome is crucial in addressing and resolving it. One of the key factors contributing to the emergence of golden child syndrome is parental favoritism.

There are various reasons why parents might show favoritism towards a particular child. It could be influenced by factors such as the child’s personality, achievements, or even physical resemblance to the parent. In some cases, parents may unconsciously project their own unfulfilled desires onto the chosen child, seeing them as a representation of their ideal self.

“Parental favoritism often arises from deeply ingrained personal biases and unresolved emotional issues within the parents themselves,” says Dr. Laura Johnson, a renowned family psychologist.

In certain instances, parental favoritism may also stem from social or cultural pressures. For example, families with strong patriarchal traditions may favor male children over their female counterparts. Additionally, parental favoritism can arise when parents determine that one child needs more attention or support due to perceived vulnerabilities, such as health conditions or learning difficulties.

Although parental favoritism is a major cause of golden child syndrome, it is important to note that it is not always intentional or malicious. Parents may unknowingly fall into favoritism patterns, unaware of the impact it has on their other children.

Factors Contributing to Golden Child SyndromeDescription
Parental FavoritismParents exhibit favoritism towards one child due to various reasons, such as personality, achievements, or physical resemblance.
Parental ExpectationsParents have high expectations for one child, often based on their own aspirations or social pressures, leading to disproportionate investment in that child’s success.
Unconscious BiasesParents may unknowingly project their own unfulfilled desires and issues onto the chosen child, seeing them as a representation of their ideal self.
Societal and Cultural InfluencesSocial and cultural norms can shape parental expectations and create societal pressures that contribute to the emergence of golden child syndrome.


Effects of Golden Child Syndrome on Siblings

Golden child syndrome can really damage relationships between brothers and sisters. The favored treatment of the golden child creates an unfair difference in the family. This causes major issues for the other siblings.

Siblings Who Aren’t the Golden Child

The non-golden child siblings may feel neglected, jealous and inadequate. They constantly compare themselves to the favored sibling and feel like they can’t measure up in their parents’ eyes. This breeds deep resentment as they witness the special treatment the golden child receives.

As they get older, these siblings struggle with low self-esteem and confidence issues. Feeling overshadowed and unseen by their parents affects their wellbeing and other relationships down the road.

Strained Sibling Bonds

Golden child syndrome drives a wedge between siblings over time. Resentment builds as they experience the unequal treatment. This makes it very difficult for brothers and sisters to develop a strong, supportive bond. The lack of closeness can lead to distance, misunderstandings and even siblings becoming estranged as adults.

Sibling relationships should have a foundation of love, trust and respect. But the syndrome erodes this foundation, damaging chances for healthy sibling connections.

Long-Lasting Effects

The effects on sibling relationships caused by the golden child issue can have long-lasting negative consequences. Siblings may have trouble trusting others or making close friendships in the future. Unresolved resentment and feelings of inadequacy linger.

The imbalance also disrupts overall family unity and stability. Ongoing conflicts and tensions persist from the unfair family dynamics.

Recognizing the harmful impact on siblings is important. By working through the pain and resentment, families can begin to heal sibling bonds and create a more balanced, supportive environment for all children.

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Neglect and JealousySiblings may feel neglected and develop feelings of jealousy towards the golden child.
Resentment and InadequacyNon-golden child siblings may harbor deep resentment and a constant sense of inadequacy.
Low Self-Esteem and Self-WorthSiblings may struggle with low self-esteem and a diminished sense of self-worth.
Strained RelationshipsThe effects of golden child syndrome can strain sibling relationships, leading to distance and misunderstandings.
Long-Term Emotional ConsequencesThe long-term consequences can impact individuals’ emotional well-being and ability to form healthy relationships.

Impacts on the Golden Child

  • The golden child faces intense pressure to achieve and be perfect. They are burdened with living up to very high expectations from their parents. Failing or disappointing parents brings immense fear.
  • The golden child lacks boundaries and discipline. They may become spoiled and selfish. A superiority complex can develop since they face no consequences for misbehavior.
  • The favored treatment brings guilt for the golden child. They are aware the family dynamics hurt their siblings unfairly. Guilt weighs on them for this parental favoritism they didn’t ask for.
  • Emotional growth gets stunted for the golden child. Their true, authentic self is obscured by parents’ idealized version. Developing an identity apart from the golden child role becomes a struggle.
  • Anxiety and mental health issues plague the golden child. The constant stress to maintain that idealized status takes a toll. Unhealthy coping like substance abuse may result.
  • Real-world competence suffers for the golden child. Their overinflated sense of abilities leaves them unprepared for failures. Lacking resilience creates further problems.
  • The golden child faces difficulties in adult relationships. Poor boundaries, entitlement mentalities, and unrealistic expectations all stem from being the favored child.
  • Parentification is common, with blurred family roles. Inappropriate responsibilities get placed on the golden child prematurely. They must also meet parents’ emotional needs.

So while being the favored, golden child may seem beneficial on the surface, the psychological impacts create problematic hurdles to overcome down the line.


“Being in the golden child role can be incredibly isolating. While others may envy the attention and privileges, they fail to understand the pressure and emotional strain that comes with it.” – Dr. Sarah Mitchell, Psychologist

Breaking the Cycle: Strategies for Balanced Family Relationships

Breaking the cycle of golden child syndrome and fostering equality within the family is a vital step towards healthier dynamics and balanced relationships. By implementing practical strategies and promoting fairness, families can create an environment where every member feels valued and respected.

1. Recognize and address parental favoritism

Golden child syndrome often stems from parental favoritism, where one child is given preferential treatment over others. To break this cycle, parents need to acknowledge their biases and take steps to address them. Open and honest communication is essential in understanding how favoritism affects each family member and finding ways to create a more equitable environment.

2. Encourage open dialogue

Creating a safe space for family members to express their feelings and concerns is critical in fostering equality. Encourage open dialogue where everyone’s opinions are valued, heard, and respected. This not only helps to address any underlying resentment or imbalance but also promotes a sense of belonging and unity within the family.

3. Promote shared responsibilities

Assigning and rotating responsibilities within the family can help to distribute the workload evenly and reduce any perception of favoritism. Encourage all family members, including the golden child, to contribute in age-appropriate ways. This promotes a sense of shared responsibility and teaches valuable life skills such as teamwork and accountability.

4. Celebrate individual differences

Recognize and celebrate each family member’s unique strengths, talents, and interests. Emphasize that everyone is valued for their individuality and encourage each person, including the golden child, to pursue their passions. This fosters a sense of autonomy and prevents the buildup of resentment towards the favored child.

5. Set clear and fair boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries helps to ensure that all family members are treated fairly and respectfully. Boundaries can include rules regarding privileges, responsibilities, and decision-making processes. Consistently enforcing these boundaries helps to maintain a balanced power dynamic within the family.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox

Remember, breaking the cycle of golden child syndrome and fostering equality requires time, effort, and commitment from all family members. It’s an ongoing process that may involve seeking professional help or family therapy to address deeper issues. By implementing these strategies and nurturing a supportive environment, families can create healthier, more balanced relationships that benefit everyone involved.

Strategies for Breaking the Cycle of Golden Child Syndrome and Fostering Equality
Recognize and address parental favoritism
Encourage open dialogue
Promote shared responsibilities
Celebrate individual differences
Set clear and fair boundaries

Seeking Professional Help and Support

When faced with the challenges of golden child syndrome, seeking professional help and support is crucial. Family therapy and counseling can play a vital role in addressing the underlying issues and finding effective solutions.

Family therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental space for all family members to express their feelings and concerns. A qualified counselor can help facilitate open communication, promote understanding, and guide the family towards healthier dynamics.

“Family therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental space for all family members to express their feelings and concerns.”

A trained and experienced family therapist can identify the root causes of golden child syndrome and assist in developing strategies for breaking the cycle. They can help the family navigate through complex emotions and conflicts, fostering forgiveness, empathy, and mutual respect among siblings and parents.

It is important to note that seeking professional help does not imply failure or weakness. Rather, it is a proactive step towards building stronger, more balanced family relationships. A skilled counselor can offer guidance, support, and valuable insights to help the family overcome the challenges associated with golden child syndrome.

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Benefits of Seeking Professional Help:

  • Expert guidance in understanding and addressing the dynamics of golden child syndrome.
  • Tools and techniques to promote open communication and active listening within the family.
  • Development of conflict resolution skills to navigate through challenging situations.
  • Validation of individual experiences and emotions, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance.
  • Opportunity to explore and address underlying family dynamics and patterns.
  • Enhancement of emotional intelligence and empathy among family members.
  • Creation of a supportive and nurturing environment for all family members, including the golden child.

Remember, seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but a proactive step towards building healthier family relationships. By working with a counselor, families can address the challenges of golden child syndrome and embark on a journey of healing, growth, and mutual understanding.

Benefits of Seeking Professional HelpDescription
Expert guidanceProfessionals can provide expert guidance in understanding and addressing the dynamics of golden child syndrome.
Improved communicationTherapists can teach tools and techniques to promote open communication and active listening within the family.
Conflict resolution skillsTherapists can help develop conflict resolution skills to navigate through challenging situations.
Validation and acceptanceTherapists provide validation of individual experiences and emotions, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Uncovering family dynamicsTherapists can assist in the exploration and addressing of underlying family dynamics and patterns.
Enhanced emotional intelligenceTherapists can help enhance emotional intelligence and empathy among family members.
Nurturing environmentTherapists can support the creation of a nurturing environment for all family members, including the golden child.


The article has explored the complex dynamics of golden child syndrome and its impact on family relationships. It is clear that balanced family relationships are crucial for the well-being of all family members. When parental favoritism and the resulting golden child syndrome are present, it can lead to strained sibling relationships, psychological challenges for the golden child, and overall imbalance within the family.

However, there is hope. By recognizing and understanding golden child syndrome, individuals can actively work towards fostering more balanced family dynamics. Strategies such as seeking professional help, teaching emotional intelligence and empathy, and nurturing individuality and autonomy can all contribute to creating healthier and more harmonious relationships within the family.

It is important to remember that achieving balanced family relationships is an ongoing process. It requires open communication, empathy, and a commitment to treating all family members with fairness and respect. By implementing the strategies and insights discussed in this article, readers can take the necessary steps towards nurturing balanced family relationships and overcoming the challenges posed by golden child syndrome for a more fulfilling family life.


What is golden child syndrome?

Golden child syndrome is a term used to describe a family dynamic where one child is favored and treated more positively by their parents or family members than their siblings.

What are the characteristics and dynamics of golden child syndrome?

Golden child syndrome often involves the golden child receiving excessive praise, attention, and privileges compared to their siblings. This dynamic can create resentment and strain within the family, as well as contribute to an imbalance of power.

What causes golden child syndrome?

Golden child syndrome is often caused by parental favoritism. Factors such as a child’s personality, achievements, or resemblance to the parent’s own interests or traits may contribute to the parent’s preference for one child over the others.

How does golden child syndrome affect siblings?

Golden child syndrome can have negative effects on siblings, such as feelings of resentment, low self-esteem, and strained relationships. Siblings who are not favored may feel overlooked, unimportant, or like they can never live up to the standards set by the golden child.

What are the impacts of golden child syndrome on the golden child?

The golden child may experience psychological effects such as pressure to live up to their parents’ expectations, difficulty forming genuine relationships, and a lack of independence or sense of identity outside of their role within the family.

How can we break the cycle of golden child syndrome?

Breaking the cycle of golden child syndrome involves fostering equality and balance within the family. This can be achieved by promoting open communication, setting boundaries, and treating all family members as individuals with their own unique needs and strengths.

When should we seek professional help and support?

It is essential to seek professional help and support when dealing with golden child syndrome or any other family issue that causes significant distress. Family therapy or counseling can provide guidance, insight, and tools for addressing underlying issues and finding solutions.

Why is teaching emotional intelligence and empathy important?

Teaching emotional intelligence and empathy to all family members, including the golden child, promotes understanding, compassion, and healthier relationships. These skills help individuals recognize and manage their own emotions, as well as understand and empathize with the feelings of others.

How can we nurture individuality and autonomy within the family?

It is crucial to nurture individuality and autonomy within the family, including the golden child. This can be done by encouraging each family member to explore their own interests, pursue their goals, and develop their unique identity outside of the family dynamic.

What is the importance of balanced family relationships?

Balanced family relationships promote a sense of fairness, respect, and support among all family members. They contribute to healthier emotional well-being, stronger bonds, and a more harmonious family environment where every member feels valued and heard.

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