Date of Award

Fall 1982

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The clinical literature on families refers to the scapegoating of children by parents as a serious problem in certain dysfunctional families. This study explores scapegoating as a more general phenomenon that occurs in normal (i.e., non-clinical) families as well. The study utilized self-reports of 403 adolescents to assess the frequency and distribution of scapegoating in normal families and what adolescent difficulties are associated with family scapegoating. Most adolescent respondents reported experiencing family scapegoating. The pattern of family scapegoating self-reports varied more with the type of family conflict scapegoated than with the family member doing the scapegoating. Reports of family scapegoating were related to adjustment problems reported by the adolescent respondents. Also, there were less significant relationships between some forms of scapegoating and low self-esteem, delinquency and peer delinquency. Theoretical and clinical implications of the results were noted, as well as suggestions for future research.