A recent study revealed that the root of narcissism among children could be attributed to the parents themselves as the latter play a major role in forming the identity of their offsprings at a certain age, according to Los Angeles Times.
The research disclosed that the level of narcissism observed among today's Western youth have been intensifying. This phenomenon could be a cause of alarm as it may play a major role in the problems encountered in the society which include violent behavior and aggression. Although the study admits that the starting point of narcissism remains unknown to this day, the researchers offer "the first prospective longitudinal evidence on the origins of narcissism in children."
For the purpose of the study, the researchers defined narcissistic people as those who "feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment." When these individuals suffer from humiliation, they have the tendency to "lash out aggressively or even violently." Hence, the researchers believe that determining the root of narcissism could provide valuable knowledge in "designing interventions to curtail narcissistic development."
"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, high self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth: parents expressing affection and appreciation toward their child," the researchers wrote.
Brad Bushman, one of the authors of the study as well as a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, explained that no one is born narcissistic. He shared that his team's research revealed how the manner by which parents treat their kids could serve as an indication of the level of narcissism of the latter.
"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," Bushman elucidated. Meanwhile, the researchers pointed out that "when children are seen by their parents as being more special and more entitled than other children, they may internalize the view that they are superior individuals, a view that is at the core of narcissism."
Hence, the children acquire narcissism partly by "internalizing [their] parents' inflated views of them." However, the researchers were quick to clarify that self-esteem differs from narcissism. In fact, the research showed that the level of self-esteem among children could be predicted through the parental warmth extended to the children and not by "parental overvaluation."
The study analyzed a total of 565 children aged between seven and 12 as these years are "when individual differences in narcissism first emerge." The parents of these subjects were interviewed every six months within the period of 18 months.