A new study released on Monday reveals that kids with parents who tell them they are “more special” than other children are more likely to become narcissists. “The research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal, is based on 565 children in the Netherlands who were surveyed over the course of a year and a half, along with their parents.”
Parents who say their children are “more special than other children” or “deserve something extra in life” had children more likely to test higher than their peers on a narcissism scale. Another test statement the parents agreed with was “My child is a great example for other children to follow.”
“Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others,” said study co-author Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“That may not be good for them or for society.”
On the other hand, the study found that parents who offered encouragement and warmth had children with high self-esteem, but not narcissism.
Children with high self-esteem did not see themselves as more special than others, but agreed with statements that they were happy with themselves and liked themselves as they were.
“People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others,” Bushman said.
Although parents mean well by telling their children they are special, they are fostering unhealthy narcissism. “Rather than raising self-esteem, overvaluing practices may inadvertently raise levels of narcissism,” lead author Eddie Brummelman said. But parents aren’t solely responsible for turning their children into monstrous narcissists: “Like other personality traits, it is partly the result of genetics and the temperamental traits of the children themselves,” the study said.