Parents turn children into narcissist by overvaluing them, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Parents are better off being emotionally warm towards children - the study says - which leads to higher self-esteem but not narcissim.
The study is the first of its kind to follow children from the ages of 7-11, the critical time when narcissistic tendencies emerge.
It followed 565 children in the Netherlands and tested typical personality traits of narcissist, such as 'thinking you are better than people'
Professor Brad Bushman, one of the study’s authors, said:
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.
When I first started doing this research in the 1990s,
I used to think my children should be treated like they were extra-special.
I’m careful not to do that now.
It is important to express warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism
The same researchers had previously caught out parents who overvalued their children.
They were asked if their children knew about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.”
Although both were made up by the researchers, some parents claimed their children knew all about them.
Eddie Brummelman, who co-authored the study, said:
Overvaluing parents tended to claim that their child had knowledge of many different topics – even these nonexistent ones.
Of course overvaluing children is not the only cause of narcissism, there are also genetic and other environmental factors.
Some children may be more likely than others to become narcissistic when their parents overvalue them.
Parent training interventions can, for example, teach parents to express affection and appreciation toward children without telling children that they are superior to others or entitled to privileges.