To what degree are narcissists created by their genetic inheritance (nature) and to what degree by the environment in which they grow up (nurture)?
The Role Of Nature :
According to a leading expert in the field of the study of narcissism, Dr Craig Malkin (Harvard Medical School), author of the fascinating book The Narcissist Test, some individuals may be born with an innate, or, in other words, genetic, predisposition towards developing narcissism in later life (which is, of course, a very different thing from asserting that there exists a gene for narcissism).
Indeed, he states that some young children start to display a temperament with narcissistic-like elements even before the age of three years, such as an abnormally intense need for attention. Furthermore, according to Dr Malkin, those children who display a deficit of empathy and compassion in relation to others’ feelings are more likely to go on to develop full-blown narcissistic personality disorder in adulthood. Also, importantly, says Dr Malikn, it is those with an extravert personality who are at particular risk of becoming narcissists.
The Role Of Nurture :
However. inborn temperament and predispositions are not enough per se to determine whether a person will go on to develop a narcissistic personality disorder. Instead, it is how the child’s upbringing interacts with his/her particular temperament that is crucial.
It is when a child is brought up without receiving ‘secure love that the s/he will feel driven to try to compensate for this deficit by desperately attempting to gain attention but in ways that are ultimately dysfunctional or ‘unhealthy’.
‘ Types Of Parenting That May Put The Child At Risk Of Developing Narcissism In Later Life :
Dr. Malkin states that certain parenting styles may put the child at risk of developing narcissistic personality disorder later on in life; I summarize these below :
- parents who only show their children admiration and approval when they (their children) achieve tangible successes (for example, in the realm of sport or academia). This can, ultimately, addict children to the desperate pursuit of similar admiration and approval in later life by constantly feeling compelled to achieve further successes (such as the accumulation of large sums of money and the gaining of high social status) because their fundamental sense of self-worth becomes inextricably linked to, and dependent upon, publicly/socially acknowledged achievements.
- parents who excessively ‘intrude’ and ‘interfere’ with their children’s lives, ignore their need for privacy’ and place their own needs for ‘control and attention’ over their children’s needs for autonomy. (Dr. Malkin also points out that parents who behave in this ways are, themselves, narcissistic) Children exposed to such treatment at the hands of their parents may develop into adults who therefore have an intense need to prevent the desires of others impinging upon their own in order to preserve their identities (that were so threatened by their parents’ overbearing behavior during their childhoods).
The Role Of Culture :
Finally, Dr. Malkin stresses the importance of the influence of particular cultures on the development of narcissism in individuals.
He suggests that :
- cultures that encourage individualism such as the USA tend to produce extravert narcissists
- cultures that encourage altruism and group cooperation such as Japan tend to produce communal narcissists (to read my article about different types of narcissists, including extraverted and communal narcissists, click here)
Resources (Self-hypnosis downloads).
Dealing With Narcissistic Behavior: Click HERE for further details.
Escape Emotional Abuse: Click HERE for further details.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.