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Sadistic-Narcissistic Parents And Their Effects

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1431 word article.

Sadistic-narcissistic parents need to feel superior to others and maintain power and control over them.

In order to achieve this end, s/he is willing to inflict pain upon others, most frequently emotional and psychological pain, but sometimes physical pain too.

Sadistic-narcissistic parents will frequently be prepared to inflict such pain on their own children in order to maintain power and control over them. This sometimes involves scapegoating one child (usually the most sensitive and vulnerable) whilst largely sparing the more favored/psychologically tougher child. This more favored child may sometimes join with the sadistic-narcissistic parent in scapegoating the more vulnerable child.

Indeed, it was my own misfortune to experience such a malignant and poisonous alliance between my own mother and older brother, which I have referred to elsewhere so will not repeat here.

The infliction of psychological and emotional pain upon the child by the sadistic-narcissistic parent may include:

– humiliating him/her (e.g. cruel and derogatory name-calling, palpably motivated by spite)

– threats of abandonment and total rejection

– ignoring him/her in a vindictive manner for protracted periods of time in order to intensify the child’s feelings of insecurity and of being unwanted

– saying to the child ‘I wish you’d never been born’

– shaming him/her in front of his/her friends/significant others.

– cruel and unusual punishments such as locking him/her in a closet

– subjecting him/her to protracted periods of ‘the silent treatment

– seeking out reasons to punish him/her even when absolutely nothing has been done to deserve punishment

– never apologizing to the child for the abuse or relishing upsetting the child further by refusing to admit abusive behavior has occurred and treating his/her opinions on the matter as contemptible

 – deriving pleasure from the ‘drama’ that might ensue from the child’s negative life events (e.g. the break-up of a teenage romance

– intimidating him/her and enjoying the fear this induces in him/her

– finding ‘any excuse’ to be abusive towards the child purely for the pleasure and sense of power the sadistic parent derives from it

– ignoring or mocking his/her desperate apologies (e.g. if s/he cries, belittling him/her for doing so and carrying on, or intensifying, the abuse)

– provoking and taunting the child to the degree s/he feels psychologically crushed or, in desperate self-defense, becomes angry him/her and then ridiculing him/her for being ‘weak’ (in the case of the former response) or rejecting/punishing him/her (in the case of the latter response).

At the risk of sounding self-indulgent, all of the above were frequent occurrences in my own childhood, it feels me with pain to report. The sadistic-narcissistic parent is able to behave in this extraordinary and shocking manner as s/he feels no empathy with his/her children and is sadly devoid of, or severely deficient in, feelings of normal parental protectiveness, love, and affection.



Furthermore, after behaving toward his/her children in such a way, the sadistic-narcissistic parent will feel little or no genuine remorse, but, instead, justify and rationalize his/her behavior by telling him/ herself, as well as others, that the child ‘deserved’ it and ‘brought it upon themselves. And, whilst it may sound like parody, s/he may actually blame the child for ‘making [him/her] behave that way.’

The psychologist, Vaknin, an expert in this field, has put forward the theory that the sadistic-narcissistic parent behaves in this way to gain a ‘narcissistic supply’ ( the word ‘supply’ here refers to the feeding of the sadistic-narcissistic parent’s ferocious and insatiable hunger for power and control) or to punish those who have previously provided him/her with such narcissistic supply but have stopped being sufficiently ( in the view of the sadistic-narcissistic parent) compliant, respectful, obedient and admiring of him/her.




Regarding this question, further research into narcissistic personality disorder needs to be conducted; such research is difficult to conduct because narcissists don’t tend to be eager to present themselves for psychological research. However, Meyers, writing in Psychology Today, regards narcissism as being closely linked to relational, emotional trauma (caused by abuse or neglect) in childhood leading to developmental arrest.

He further emphasizes that not all narcissists are sadistic and that those narcissists who are sadistic tend to have experienced more intense, extreme, and severe abuse during their early lives (he describes this abuse as ‘confusing’ and ‘mind-twisting’). He further states that sadistic narcissists tend to have even lower self-esteem than non-sadistic narcissists who themselves have very low self-esteem and feel inferior to others (and act as if they are superior as a defense mechanism in a desperate attempt to compensate for the inadequacy they feel). 



One way that helps psychologists try to decide if an individual is a sadist or not is to administer what is known as the Short Sadistic Impulsive Scale (SSIS). The questionnaire comprises the following ten questions:

  1. Do you enjoy seeing others hurt?
  2. Would you enjoy hurting someone physically, sexually, or emotionally?
  3. Do you think hurting others would be exciting?
  4. Have you ever hurt others for enjoyment?
  5. Do you think people would enjoy hurting others if they tried it?
  6. Have you had fantasies involving hurting others?
  7. Have you hurt others because you could?
  8. Would you intentionally hurt anyone?
  9. Have you humiliated others to ‘keep them in line’?
  10. Do you ever get so angry that you want to hurt people?


N.B. The above questionnaire is for information only. You can’t self-diagnose or diagnose others simply by answering the above questions (which represent only a very small part of the medical profession’s toolkit when it comes to the diagnosis of personality disorders).




Because the role of the parent is to nurture, care for and love his/her child and that sadistic parenting represents the polar opposite of that, such parenting is the most abusive form of parenting that there is and is therefore especially likely to substantially, or, indeed, profoundly damage the child’s mental health, leading to particularly severe and intractable forms of trauma-related mental disorders such as complex PTSD.




The latest research (Chester) on sadists shows that whilst sadists derive pleasure at the time they are inflicting suffering on others, after the event their mood is actually lowered and they feel worse than before they indulged themselves in their sadistic behavior. Chester, who conducted the research, believes this finding may provide renewed insight into how to treat the condition and enable clinicians to ‘short-circuit’ the sadist’s aggressive cycle of behavior by helping him/her to understand that it ultimately does not just harm the victim, but s/he, the perpetrator of the sadistic acts, too.



Eunice Spry, referred to by some sectors of the British press as ‘Britain’s Most Sadistic Mother’ and who claimed to be highly religious, was jailed for physically beating her children six times a day, locking them up for weeks at a time, starving them, and only feeding them rat droppings, telling them they were ‘the devil’s children, beating their feet, and forcing chair legs down their throats. Eunice Spry also claimed that she carried out her acts to ‘save [her children] from Armageddon.’ 

Eunice Spry was jailed for 14 years for her crimes but only served 7. Her now grown-up son has been quoted as saying that the only way he can cope with the horror of what happened is to pretend that it happened to somebody else.



A sadistic father who has not been named to protect his family was jailed for 6 years in 2019 at Swansea Crown Court (U.K.) for sadistic behavior towards his children including horsewhipping them, forcing them to fight each other, and compelling them to stand with their hands on their heads whilst he shouted abuse at them to the point that they wet themselves. The judge said to the perpetrator ‘for these children, you should have been a role model and protector – instead, you were their tormentor.’



David S. Chester et al.(2018) Sadism and Aggressive Behavior: Inflicting Pain to Feel Pleasure.Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin