How the Golden Child Role Influences Failure to Launch  

June 7, 2016

Perceptions of your role as the Golden Child in the family can have a negative effect on your ability to cope with the demands of adulthood. In A.M.’s informative video lecture, she explains how her family makeup influenced the adoption of that demanding role. She internalized the “Golden Child” role and instantly began trying to compensate for the perceived flaws of her siblings. The attempts to make up for these flaws through the perfect emulation of her parents’ polished background led to the development of Failure to Launch syndrome after starting college. If you see yourself as the Golden Child of the family, you may put excessive pressure on yourself to exceed assumed expectations without fail.

Familial Pressures

Families are complex units filled with individuals of all personality types and abilities. As you strive for love and acceptance, you may start to build up an internal dialogue of expectations your parents have for you. The expectations may center around their own successes without a clear view of the failures experienced on that path. If your siblings do not strive to meet those perceived expectations, in your view, you may feel immense pressure to take on the role of the Golden Child. This distorted lens can upset your natural drive and lead to extreme perfectionist thinking.

Negative Effects

As you adopt the Golden Child role, you might start to develop performance anxiety, especially when faced with difficult tasks. If you cannot achieve your goals, you may adopt and reinforce negative thought patterns, causing or worsening symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties. As such, this situation tends to snowball out of control and totally wipe out your efforts to launch into adulthood. Like A.M., you may have to return home and reframe your sense of self before returning to college and beyond.

Internal Processing

A.M. did not begin challenging her cognitive dissonance or perfectionist thought patterns until hitting rock bottom after returning home. Her failure to launch catapulted her negative self-image to new heights and led to extreme mental distress. After a suicide attempt caused by the inability to see a way around her distress, she sought cognitive behavior therapy to challenge her views of her role in her family and personal life. Therapy helped her see a way out of the Golden Child role and into the role-reframing process. To adjust to adult life, you must reassess your role separate from your family. You may need to drop personal expectations a bit lower and expect failures along the way.

Road to Recovery

A.M. had to take time off college, return home, and go through therapy to recover from the expectations she put on herself. You can begin challenging negative thought patterns and roles before experiencing a failure to launch situation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you see the world and yourself in a new light to better handle the difficulties life throws your way. You can even attend the therapy sessions with family to better understand their own journey through life and acceptance of you for who you really are.