Study: Parents are the cause of narcissism in children
by Catherine Garcia, The Week
First, the good news: People aren’t born narcissists. The bad news? Parents can easily push their children down the path to narcissism by overvaluing them.
“Loving your child is healthy and good, but thinking your child is better than other children can lead to narcissism, and there is nothing healthy about narcissism,” Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, told the Los Angeles Times. Bushman is the co-author of a paper, published in the journal PNAS, that found a direct relationship between narcissistic children and parents who overvalue them, in a first look at the origins of narcissism.
For the study, 565 kids between the ages of 7 and 12 and their parents were interviewed every six months over the course of 18 months. The children were asked how much they agreed with statements like “I am a great example for other kids to follow” and “I am very good at making other people believe what I want them to believe,” while parents were presented with “I would find it disappointing if my child was just a ‘regular’ child” and “my child deserves special treatment.”
The researchers found that parents who think their children are better and deserve more than others pass that feeling on to their children, who wind up feeling superior to others. It’s not a bad thing for parents to think their children are great; the problems arise when they begin to think other kids are bad. All hope isn’t lost once the narcissism ship sets sail, though. “Although narcissism is often seen as a deeply ingrained personality trait, it can certainly change,” said Eddie Brummelman of the University of Amsterdam, first author of the study. “When you are narcissistic at one time in life you’re not destined to be narcissistic decades later.”
Catherine Garcia is a staff writer for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications.
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