Parents Who Overvalue Kids May Be Fostering Narcissism

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, March 12, 2015

Parents Who Overvalue Kids May Be Fostering Narcissism

*The following is excerpted from an online article from PsychCentral.

New research finds that when a parent believes their child is better than other kids and can do no wrong, they may be fostering unhealthy narcissism in their children.

In an effort to find the origins of narcissism, researchers surveyed parents and their children four times over one and a half years to see if they could identify which factors led children to have inflated views of themselves.

Investigators found that parents who "overvalued" their children when the study began ended up with children who scored higher on tests of narcissism later on.

Overvalued children were described by their parents in surveys as "more special than other children" and as kids who "deserve something extra in life," for example.

"Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society," said Dr. Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

Bushman conducted the study with lead author Dr. Eddie Brummelman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The study appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Parents often innocently provide exaggerated support in an effort to ensure that their child will develop enhanced self-confidence.

Brummelman said that parents with the best of intentions may overvalue their children, thinking that will help boost their self-esteem.

"Rather than raising self-esteem, overvaluing practices may inadvertently raise levels of narcissism," Brummelman said.

While parental overvaluation was associated with higher levels of child narcissism over time, it was not associated with more self-esteem.

In contrast, parents who showed more emotional warmth did have children with higher self-esteem over time. Parental warmth was not associated with narcissism.

"Overvaluation predicted narcissism, not self-esteem, whereas warmth predicted self-esteem, not narcissism," Bushman said.

Source: PsychCentral