Wednesday 16 January 2019

Don’t want to raise a narcissist? Stop telling your children they’re special

US study concludes that children who are told by parents they are 'more special than other children' are more likely to become narcissists

Children frequently told how much they were loved by their parents but not that they were more special than their peers were found to have high self-esteem
Children frequently told how much they were loved by their parents but not that they were more special than their peers were found to have high self-esteem

Patricia Murphy

If you want to avoid raising a brood of narcissists you best stop telling your children they are special scientists have warned.

New research has found that children who are frequently told they are more special than other children are more likely to score higher on tests of narcissism than their peers whose egos were not boosted in this way.

The research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an American journal, based its findings on 565 children from the Netherlands and their parents who were studied over the course of 18 months.

Read more: Irish dads are more likely to lose the kids on days out

The children were between the ages of seven and 11 when they took part in the study and their parents were surveyed at the onset and every six months subsequently.

Researchers also noted how much parents tend to overvalue their children based on whether or not they agreed with statements such as, “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."

Children frequently told how much they were loved by their parents but not that they were more special than their peers were found to have high self-esteem without expressing narcissistic tendencies.

These children agreed that they liked who they were and were happy with themselves but did not rate highly on the tests which depicted narcissism.

Read more: 75% of Irish parents miss at least 15 hours of work to stay at home with their sick children

If one of your offspring does happen to end up narcissistic it might not be your doing as, like all personality traits, genetics have a part to play.

"Like other personality traits, it is partly the result of genetics and the temperamental traits of the children themselves," said the study.

Lead author Eddie Brummelman revealed that he has learned some valuable parenting lessons because of his research into the topic.

Read more: Eight strange things our children make us do

"When I first started doing this research in the 1990s, I used to think my children should be treated like they were extra-special. I'm careful not to do that now," he said.

"It is important to express warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism."

People can find out more about the #VoteWithUs campaign that Brighid and Paddy are taking part in by visiting www.votewithus.org

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