When a child learns a new skill, they get excited. “Watch me mummy!” They’re adorably self-focused. By about the age of seven, the child starts realistically comparing himself with his peers, and often this can lead to a drop in self-esteem. The child quickly learns that he’s not the fastest runner or best singer. It’s about this age then, that we can see if the child will become narcissistic.
A recent longitudinal study was conducted and over 500 seven to twelve-year-old’s and their parents were assessed four times over the course of 18 months. Researchers found that greater child-rated parental warmth, which was measured by statements such as, “My mother/father let me know she/he loves me,” were predictors of higher self-esteem, but not greater narcissism. Conversely, parental overvaluation, measured by statements such as, “My child is more special than other children,” predicted greater narcissism, but not greater self-esteem. These findings shed light on how narcissists ‘become’. Basically, in the majority of cases, it’s the parenting.
Please remember though that Narcissistic Personality Disorder must be diagnosed by a practitioner – if a person has one or two of these traits, that doesn’t automatically allow anyone to dump them into the ‘narcissist’ bucket. Teens have a tough time as it is with so much pressure from peers and social media, it can be damaging to be nasty with labels like this. Remember kindness is king! This information is to start building your understanding about narcissistic tendencies.
What are some of the signs of narcissistic tendencies?
- Do you know someone who is a really bad loser? Narcissists often blame others for being incompetent rather than look at themselves. For example, in a sporting match, the narcissist will belittle the referee rather than admit the other player was superior.
- Narcissists feel more ‘entitled’ than others, more entitled to wealth, recognition, praise, you name it.
- Whether overt or covert, narcissists are arrogant and conceited and have a tendency to disregard the needs of others. Seeking admiration from others is a key trait.
- An interesting study1 showed that narcissists swear more and are more argumentative than non-narcissists. They also use more sexually explicit language.
- Narcissists think they’re more attractive and intelligent than others. They’ll dress better and have a more ‘put together’ look than non-narcissists.
- In a relationship, narcissists are manipulative and more willing to cheat. They will criticise those who may expose them and gather people around them who will help them maintain their image. Watch out for name dropping too!
- Often narcissists understand how they are perceived by others: attractive, intelligent, funny and power-oriented, prone to exaggeration and arrogant. But they just don’t care. They believe others are jealous of them.
- Source: Research led by Eddie Brummelman, University of Amsterdam
(1) Psychologists Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube from Washington University in St. Louis conducted the research