In family therapy, the concept of scapegoating has a similar origin, and potentially a similar effect, both for the family and the scapegoat.

Typically, the family will target, though not intentionally, at least not at first, one member of the family to become the focus or cause of all of the problems of the family. The result for the family is a means of deflecting attention from the real conflict. The real conflict that spawns this act of scapegoating can be anything, for example, alcoholism, chronic illness, marital discontent. The family will feel relief, but the scapegoat will feel angry and alone. The goal of the family is not to deal with and resolve the issues, but, rather, to cover them up. This effect, though seemingly ben- eficial, is actually an unfortunate outcome of this targeting. It does not absolve the family of their contributions to the dysfunction. Rather, it exacerbates the dysfunction and can have serious consequences for the scapegoat.

-Lori Ellison. Marshall University.