A new study has shown that parents who have an inflated view of their children may be conditioning them to be narcissistic adults.
The research, conducted by Ohio State University, investigated the origins of narcissistic behaviour in children by looking at 565 children in four 6-month waves of study.
The researchers looked at two standing perspective: social learning (narcissism cultivated by ‘parental overvaluation’) and psychoanalytic theory (narcissism cultivated by lack of parental warmth).
Over the two year period of study, the findings found overwhelming support for the social learning perspective, and contradicted the psychoanalytic theory.
“Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation, not by lack of parental warmth. Thus, children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them,” the researchers found.
Parental overvaluation includes the ideas that:
- Without your child, his/her class would be “much less fun”;
- Your child deserves special treatment;
- Your child is “more special” than other children;
- You’d be disappointed if your child was just a “regular” child;
- Your child deserves something extra in life;
- and that your child is a great example for other children to follow.
According to the researchers, narcissism bears many negative social traits, including increased aggression and maybe even violent behaviour.
“Narcissistic individuals feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently,” the group noted.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder also show a strong sense of entitlement, carry a grandiose sense of self-importance, and often exploit others and exhibit a lack of empathy.
While the findings are a point of interest, the study notes that narcissistic personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional.
“We demonstrate that narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation: parents believing their child to be more special and more entitled than others.”
In contrast, the research found that high self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth: parents expressing affection and appreciation toward their child.