Too much praise helps create narcissistic kids

From ABC News in Science, 10 March 2015:

Overvaluing and overpraising children can contribute to the development of narcissism, researchers have found.

A study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science , answers a long-standing question of whether narcissistic traits develop as a result of too much or too little parental attention.

Narcissism is named after the proud, vain hunter Narcissus, a figure in Greek mythology who fell so in love with his own reflection in a still pool of water that he eventually drowned in it.

Lead researcher and post-doctoral researcher Eddie Brummelman says he became fascinated with narcissism in children and wanted to explore how it emerged.

“It’s children who feel they are better than others, but they also demand constant attention and admiration from others,” says Brummelman, from the University of Amsterdam.

“In essence, they are very vulnerable, says Brummelman.

“For instance, when they are criticised or feel humiliated, they tend to become aggressive.”

There have been two competing theories about the parental influence on narcissistic traits; one suggests that narcissism evolves as a defence mechanism to cope with a lack of parental warmth and affection, while the other posits that it’s actually the result of too much praise.

“Social learning theory suggests that the narcissism develops when parents believe their children are more important than others, more special than others, more entitled than others,” Brummelman says.

The study enrolled 565 Dutch children aged 7-11 years and at least one parent, telling them that it was a study of self-image and how parents raise their children.

The children were given questionnaires designed to measure their self-esteem, and to evaluate how much affection they experienced from their parents, while the parents completed questionnaires designed to pick up on overvaluation but also to assess how affectionate parents were towards their children. Read more.

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