Parents who treat their children as ‘special’ who ‘deserve something extra in life’ may be responsible for creating little narcissists, according to new Dutch research.
In a study that aimed to find the origins of narcissism, researchers surveyed Dutch parents and 565 children four times over 18 months to see if they could identify which factors led children to have inflated views of themselves. The children were aged between seven and 11 when the research started.
The parental overvaluation of children was measured with a scale that asked parents how much they agreed with statements such as ‘My child is a great example for other children to follow’.
The results showed that parents who ‘overvalued’ their children when the study began ended up with children who scored higher on tests of narcissism later on.
‘Children believe it when their parents tell them they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society,’ said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.
‘Rather than raising self-esteem, overvaluing practices may inadvertently raise levels of narcissism,’ Eddie Brummelen, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam, said in a statement.
Brummelman said that parents may overvalue their children with the best of intentions, thinking that will help boost their self-esteem.
Surveys repeatedly show that Dutch children are among the happiest in the world.
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