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What Causes Children To Become Narcissists: 4 Types Of Narcissism In Children, And The Influence Of Parents

A narcissist is characterised by excessive self-indulgence and disregarding the needs of those around them. Even though everyone can exhibit narcissistic behaviour occasionally, narcissists frequently disregard or disregard the feelings of others. Furthermore, they are unaware of the consequences of their behaviour on others.

In addition to being a trait, narcissism can also be part of a larger personality disorder. The concept of narcissism is a spectrum, and not every narcissist exhibits symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). A person at the highest spectrum is classified as having NPD. In contrast, others with narcissistic traits may be classified as being on the lower end [1].

So, how does a child become narcissistic? Let's explore.

What Causes Children to Become Narcissists?

Generally, narcissism begins to develop between the ages of 7 and 8. At this point, children begin to evaluate themselves in the light of how others perceive them. Narcissism is partially genetic but also influenced by the environment [2].

The development of narcissistic personality disorders results from certain childhood family environments. Every child desire the approval and attention of his or her parents. Children adapt to their homes productively and reasonably in certain situations by becoming narcissists.

According to experts, the following are some of the reasons why children become narcissists:

  • According to social learning theory, children whose parents lavish them with praise and teach them that they are better than others are more likely to become narcissistic [3].
  • The psychoanalytic theory suggests that children develop heightened narcissism as a defence mechanism when their parents do not provide them with enough warmth. In other words, "Well, I cannot get my parents to love me, so I will make everyone else love me instead!"
  • One study that examined both theories found that parental overvaluation predicted narcissism rather than a lack of parental warmth. This does not imply that a lack of warmth will not cause other problems or be a recommended parenting style - just that in this sample, it did not appear to lead to narcissism [4].

Types Of Narcissism In Children: The Influence Of Parents

Narcissistic Parental Values: This situation results in the child being raised in a competitive family that rewards only high achievement. Love is conditional in this environment. The parents may be exhibitionist narcissists (people who like to be the centre of admiration). According to the family motto, why bother if you cannot be the best? [5].

The Devaluing Narcissistic Parent: Here, the child is constantly being put down by a very authoritative and devaluing parent. There is generally an irritable temperament, an easy tendency to anger, and unrealistic expectations on the part of the parent. In the case of two or more children, the parent will praise one child while devaluing the others [6].

The Golden Child: Usually, these parents are closet narcissists who are uncomfortable in the spotlight. Instead, they boast about their child's exceptional abilities. Often, the child is gifted and deserves praise, but some parents sometimes go to absurd lengths to do so. An excessively idealised child as flawless and special can develop a narcissistic personality later in life [7].

The Exhibitionist's Admirer: In some families, children are raised by narcissistic parents who reward them with praise and attention if they admire and obey them. Children are taught narcissistic values but are discouraged from displaying themselves to attract admiration. As a result, their role in the family is to worship their narcissistic parent uncritically without ever trying to equal or surpass that parent's achievements [8].

Noticing Narcissistic Traits In Children

There are several ways in which narcissistic personality disorder may manifest in children [9][10]:

  • The belief that they are superior to other children.
  • Finding it difficult to make friends or maintain friendships.
  • Withdrawal from those who do not give attention or praise.
  • Lack of gratitude for kindness shown by parents or others.
  • Leaving other children out of their playgroup due to superficial characteristics such as poverty, low social status, or inability to perform the same tasks at the appropriate level.
  • Failure to accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions.
  • Having temper tantrums when criticised.
  • Consider getting attention as their right/need to be the centre of attention.
  • A feeling of resentment at being directed.
  • An unwillingness to acknowledge the authority of others
  • Inability to look into the eyes of someone speaking to them (gaze aversion).
  • A tendency to have high and unreasonable expectations of others.
  • Enhanced feelings of envy, where the child is offended if others are seen as better than them.
  • Children often engage in antisocial behaviour, such as fighting or stealing toys from other children.

On A Final Note...

It is common for kids and teens to go through phases in which they become self-absorbed, have inflated self-esteem, and lack empathy for others due to focusing on meeting their own needs. Narcissistic traits such as these are quite common among children.

The development of narcissistic traits is often caused by neglect or excessive appraisal. Occasionally, this pathological self-structure develops under childhood conditions of inadequate warmth, approval, and excessive idealisation, in which parents do not see or accept their children as they are.

Generally, the child does not require treatment. However, when these traits manifest as a disorder, psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for narcissistic personality disorder, as opposed to medication alone.

Some children are prescribed antidepressant medications to treat their depression and anxiety. Otherwise, no specific medication is administered to the child.

Story first published: Sunday, August 14, 2022, 12:35 [IST]
Read more about: narcissism causes psychology
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