Often, the family “black sheep” is really a “scapegoat,” a convenient excuse for other family members to deny their roles in various problems. The “scapegoat” may have an obvious problem such as drug addiction or chronic truancy. Or s/he may just have had the bad luck to be born at an inconvenient time, or to look like a hated relative.
Regardless of the cause, the “scapegoat” typically internalizes the “bad one” label and makes misbehavior part of his or her identity. The “good” kids fare little better: besides developing a negative attitude toward their “problem” sibling, they learn to dodge blame and don’t learn to accept personal responsibility. In many families, scapegoat syndrome continues to poison relationships decades after the children are grown.
Whatever ages your kids are, the best time to spot and stop any scapegoating tendencies is immediately.
That’s of course with the understanding that they do have a responsibility to think.