* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.
It is estimated by psychologists that 1% of the population has a narcissistic personality disorder. But is this type of pathology something that is learned or are some people just born with it? So, Are Narcissists Born Or Made?
This is a question that people have asked themselves for a very long time.
People with this kind of personality disorder tend to lack empathy for other people.
Additionally, they can be very self-centered and have egocentric tendencies or have a very grandiose perception of themselves.
These self-centered and egotistic tendencies tend to be quite damaging and destructive to interpersonal friendships. They can also lead to severe issues in the workplace.
We’ve likely all had to come into contact with a narcissistic person at some point whether it be a boss, a friend, a family member, or even a romantic partner.
The superiority complex that they can have along with the lack of empathy, arrogance, and need for the admiration of other people can be very harmful.
Dr. Theodore Millon has predicted that people with a narcissistic personality disorder will increase over time within society.
His research has also suggested that variations of narcissism can be more harmful than others.
For instance, prosocial narcissists tend to adapt better to society and social situations, whereas antisocial narcissists tend to be more aggressive and have a higher level of arrogance, and therefore they pose more of a risk to other people.
Here are some causes that are believed to be responsible for causing narcissistic personality disorder in some people:
- Narcissism can be a learned behavior for some people.
- Narcissism can sometimes be passed down from generation to generation.
- Narcissism can be the result of child abuse.
Let’s take a look into these three arguments in more detail.
Table of Contents
Narcissism Could Be Learned Behavior
Scientific research has shown that a child’s upbringing and context within society play a significant role in the development of a narcissistic personality.
In the 20th century, it was believed that children who didn’t develop an attachment to their parents or have a safe home life developed narcissistic traits.
This was believed to be because these children didn’t receive love and attention during their childhood, so they looked for admiration, validation, and attention from other sources.
Research done by Dr. Eddie Brummelman from Utrecht University refuted this belief, however, a study conducted by Brummelman and his team revealed that the opposite may in fact be the cause of narcissistic behavior.
This research suggests that children who are overly protected and spoiled by their parents can lead to narcissistic traits, as these children are raised to believe they are better than others.
The kind of privileged upbringing can lead children to believe that they have more rights over other people and a sense of entitlement.
The study showed that this trait can be observed from the age of 7 to 12, during the period of life when the child’s sense of identity and self is developing.
During this time, it can be seen that children with this kind of upbringing can begin to consider themselves unique and more deserving than others.
Narcissism Can Be Passed Down to Children
As previously discussed, parenting plays a very significant role in the development of children with a narcissistic personality disorder.
It is also common for parents who are themselves narcissistic to unintentionally cause the same tendencies to develop in their children.
It’s common knowledge that kids tend to copy their parents’ behavior, speech, and ways of thinking. This is because all children want the validation and admiration of their parents, so they tend to imitate their parents in many different ways.
In the same way, children can learn narcissistic tendencies from their parents; for example, many know how to shift blame and pass off the responsibility for their actions.
Additionally, they can learn how to play victim games, and they are taught how to hold onto grudges and use them against people.
Narcissism Can Be The Result of Child Abuse
It is common for children who have been emotionally neglected or abused by their parents or caregivers can sometimes grow up to have narcissistic traits.
While this is not the case for all victims of child abuse, research has shown it to be a contributory factor in the development of narcissistic personality disorder.
Childhood emotional neglect occurs when a parent doesn’t provide the appropriate degree of emotional support to their children.
This can sometimes lead to the children growing up with the perception that their feelings and emotions are meaningless and are of no consequence.
This can lead to the children shutting down emotionally as a defense mechanism.
This sort of upbringing can lead to uncaring and unsympathetic personalities, which are two of the central and most damaging traits associated with narcissistic personality disorders.
If this person then has children, they will likely raise them similarly to how they were raised, and not have the emotional tools necessary to support their children, causing the cycle to continue.
If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
- NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264
For more information on mental health, please see:
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
- Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
- WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
- NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
- APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram
Although the factors we have discussed above are certainly contributing factors that may cause narcissistic personality disorders in people, people are also affected by their environments and society at large.
Additionally, it’s likely that social media is now a large factor in the development of narcissism, particularly in younger people.
The constant need for admiration, attention, and “likes” on social media platforms is dangerous for individuals with a predisposition to narcissistic personality traits.
To conclude, it is more than likely that narcissists are made rather than born, as these personality traits result from social and environmental factors.
It should be noted that most narcissists are not happy or content in their lives, and sometimes they make other people suffer because they themselves are struggling with their own internal battles.
With more awareness and understanding, we can work to make the next generation one who values empathy and respect.
People with narcissistic traits are not beyond help. With the proper support and understanding, they can be helped to manage their pathology effectively.