Being a golden child can have harmful effects later in life. For one, it often affects relationships in terms of connection and boundaries, Roberts says.
“On the one hand, the grown-up golden child might become excessively attached to another person, not knowing where they begin and end. For example, they might display excessive people-pleasing, seeking the validation they never received as a child. On the other hand, they might truly struggle with connection in relationships, seeking validation from outside sources like work and never becoming emotionally available to a partner,” he explains.
This is a result of having an insecure attachment style with their parents, so they struggle to connect with others and either become too clingy because they strongly desire the love their parents failed to provide or completely withdrawn and aloof.
Another negative effect of this syndrome is growing up with low self-esteem. Since a golden child’s sense of self-worth is directly linked to their ability to please and their external achievements, as an adult, “they are likely to feel that they must present a perfect image of themselves to earn others’ approval and love. These adults also lack a sense of identity because the only identity they formed during their childhood was through appeasing their parents, so they report feeling empty and unsure of themselves,” Hafeez explains.
“These children will also grow into adults who become defensive when they receive criticism. Because golden children are accustomed to only receiving positive feedback from their loved ones, they struggle to accept any form of negative feedback as an adult. They will automatically believe that they have failed,” she continues.
To cope with these failures, they may pick up unhealthy mechanisms, including gambling, drug addiction, or alcoholism.
In the long run, these children can also become manipulative and controlling. They overrun others to meet their own needs by exploiting and using others to meet their vested interests. They may also become passive-aggressive and jealous, Gonzalez-Berrios adds.