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The Different Precursors of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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Juvenescence perchance is an emotionally perplex and puzzling period in an individual’s life in which they may become engrossed with their apparent individual weaknesses, societal position, and image in which society perceives. In light of this abstraction, narcissistic tendencies such as self-centeredness and vulnerability to the perception of others might be just piece of classic developmental procedures; none the less, for a few juveniles, these qualities might be not so much normative but rather more pathological (Bleiberg, 1994). Environmental factors that are conducive to the development of narcissism have been long theorized by psychologists, specifically the role of the parents and the parenting techniques they use. There are no explicit causes for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) that have been discovered yet; there has been several research studies regarding this issue some argue that it is mainly developed through social and environmental factors, and others argue that it is genetic.

There are many studies that have been conducted to investigate Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Many of these studies can be slightly unreliable for the reason that they all lack some fundamental aspects such as definitions and descriptions of the disorder that make the study more reliable and descriptive, therefore easier to follow and understand. Also errors such as inaccurate measurements relating to the data collected to analyze the results were found in some of the studies, which will therefore alter the results this will be discussed later in this essay.

Capron (2004) is one of the most famous studies that have been carried out to support the role of the environmental and social factors in acquiring Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The aim of this study was to specifically investigate if there was a correlation between the development of NPD and parenting techniques, which are, overindulgence, over-permissiveness, over-protectiveness, and over-dominance. The procedure carried out was that first, there was a group of participants that consisted of 100 male and 100 female undergraduates. The researchers asked the participants to complete two surveys, the first one determines if the participant has NPD to some extent and is called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) which was developed by Raskin and Terry (1988). Capron (2004) carried out a study in which an adult has to pamper a child, but which what most probably their own child, this falls under permissive parenting. Permissive parenting, as discussed previously, usually leads to NPD. The findings of this study confirm this since it found that when children are constantly pampered they constantly expect this attitude from several people around them, not just their parents. This causes the pampered children to develop narcissistic characteristics as they grow up. There appeared to be a direct relationship between parental techniques and narcissistic character traits. The researchers found that according to the data shown in the surveys, the strongest correlation with the NPI test were that of overindulgence and over-permissiveness. Since the participants consisted of the two genders, an inconsistency was found between their results. In the case of the men, overindulgence correlated with the undesirable traits of entitlement and exhibitionism, and did not correlate with the positive trait of self-sufficiency. While in the case of the women, it correlated with the undesirable traits of exhibitionism, deceitfulness, and entitlement, and it did also correlate with the positive trait of authority.

A study by Horton, Bleau, &Drwecki (2006) investigates if there was a relationship between healthy narcissism, which classifies as the characteristic of possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life, and unhealthy narcissism, and the parenting dimensions of warmth, monitoring, and psychological control. The participants of this study consisted of 212 high school students who were living with their parents. The participants were asked to take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory survey, and standard measure of the parenting dimensions. The results showed that monitoring had a negative effect on both types of narcissism, while parental warmth was correlated with the healthy narcissism. Horton (2006) found support for a relation between parental warmth and two forms of NPI- measured narcissism, one normal (healthy) and one controlling for self-esteem (unhealthy). Additionally, they discovered a positive correlation between parental control and unhealthy narcissism with both adult and adolescent informants. This study established that parenting styles do have a certain effect on narcissistic characteristics developed by teenagers, this portrays how social factors can lead to developing narcissistic personality disorder.

A study carried out by Johnson et al. (1999) investigates how neglect and abuse during childhood affects the risk of developing a personality disorder such as NPD later in their lives. The experimental procedure carried out called for 639 mothers from New York and their children. The data that was collected for this study was collected through interview over the course of eighteen years. The correlation between childhood physical abuse and neglect and narcissistic characteristics was found by having the children of these women give self-reports when they were young adults. It was found that people who reported that they experienced physical abuse during their childhood were four times more prone to developing narcissistic personality disorder during their early adulthood. The researchers found that neglect specifically was correlated to narcissistic, antisocial, and passive aggressive personality characteristics. Therefore it has been concluded that people who experience neglect during childhood are more likely to develop NPD and disorders similar to it, supporting the idea that NPD can occur or be developed solely on environmental and social factors. Biological factors were disregarded completely because the researchers wanted to investigate the role of the parental techniques, which fall under social factors, on the risk of developing NPD.

Johnson et al. (2001) is another longitudinal study in which was investigating whether or not mothers use vulgar language (verbal abuse) while pregnant, would affect the prospect of the offspring developing a personality disorder later during their life. Just like the previous study, 793 New York mothers and their offspring were studied. The data needed for this experiment was collected over a tremendous period of time which was over the course of 2 decades. This data consisted of interviews, and official New York State records, and it was confirmed that this data regarding verbal abuse is independent of physical and sexual abuse and other similar factors. The results showed that babies who have experienced maternal verbal abuse were 3 times more likely to develop narcissistic, egoistic, self-centered, self absorbed personality disorder during their teenage years. One of the findings of this experiment also was that the children showed a higher liability of developing NPD when exposed to verbal abuse from their mother specifically rather than any other specifically. According to this research, verbal abuse during pregnancy, meaning using inappropriate language, was added to the list of social factors, specifically regarding parenting techniques that increase the possibility of the development of NPD.

There are several limitations that are found in some of the studies used in this essay that can possibly question their reliability to some extent, but they would not be considered completely invalid. Capron (2004) has a limitation of having the Narcissistic Personality Inventory as the main aspect that determines the degree to which the participants qualify for NPD. Despite this, this limitation does not make this study unreliable because as stated previously, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory is a commonly used measure that assesses this form of narcissism through scales that include adaptive and maladaptive narcissistic-related traits such as self-sufficiency, exploitativeness, and superiority. This demonstrates that the study just has a lack of research methods, but the existing research method that it is using is a reliable source.

Horton (2006) has strengths as well as limitations, One of the strengths found here can be identifies as that this study allows the researcher to find certain connections and relationships between the variables that help improve the overall findings of the experiment. Despite that it can show the specific relationship between variables, it cannot show or identify the reason why this relationship has been formed or why it even exists. Horton (2006) and Capron (2004) share the same minor limitation of using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, but that does not affect the credibility of the studies.

Johnson et al. (1999) is classified as a highly reliable study because it is longitudinal. Meaning that the data involved in making conclusions regarding this study was collected over a very long time, in this case, eighteen years. There are also certain weaknesses in this study that limit its strengths. A limitation that was noticeable in this piece of research is that the researcher partially based his investigation on qualitative data such as the self-reports collected, instead of quantitative data, therefore the results might have been slightly biased, but it is not extreme to the point that it majorly alters the findings of the study. The outcomes of the study are still quite reliable.

As stated previously in this essay, there is a constant debate between researchers for the reason that, some do believe that NPD is developed through social and environmental factors, and others believe that they are developed through genetic factors, as opposed to social factors. A study carried out by Livesley et al (1993) observes the relationship between specific personality disorders and inherited traits through a standardized test. A self- selective sample of participants consisted of 175 pair twins, 90 of the twins were identical and the remaining 85 were fraternal twins. The procedure that was carried out was that each participant was required to fill out a survey called the Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology. This test basically asses the eighteen dimensions of personality disorders. The findings that this study appears to have are that narcissism, one of the eighteen personality dimensions, had the highest percentage when it came to genetics, which was 64%. Therefore the researchers of this study are arguing that narcissistic personality traits are developed by genetics as opposed to social factors.

A possible aspect that can make this study more reliable is that they used twins to investigate the role of genetics on the development of NPD. A limitation that this study possesses that can have a significant effect on the results is that there was a greater number of identical twins than fraternal twins in the participants, there is an unbalanced number of participants in each category which can cause a lack of consistency in the results.

Many of the studies showed that social factors impact the development of narcissistic personality disorder—in particular parenting styles and both verbal and physical abuse during childhood—while others argued that inheritance factors play a significant role.

Nonetheless, there were several standard difficulties with the procedures of the experimental studies. As a consequence of the nature of the disorder, the manner in which the researchers approached this issue is through correlation, allowing them to distinguish the correlation between the variables and the disorder. However, in using this approach a causation of the correlation cannot be determined and only a relationship can be seen. Many studies also used surveys and inventories, such as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which may be problematic in that currently there is not a definite, consistent definition and description of the disorder established (Pincus). Consequently, the observations and findings of some studies may not be comparable to other studies using different surveys. In addition, the questions and thus the findings of the survey may not truly reflect the characteristics of the disorder.

Moreover, many studies gathered data and observations from self-reports and interviews, although for a more accurate and detailed assessment of narcissistic personality disorder, it may be useful to go further than self-reports and apply peer ratings when possible. As most of the data from the studies, whether from surveys or interviews, involved self-reported data from the participants, the data is subject to distortion of data from mistaken memories and additionally demand characteristics that affect the outcome of the studies. To demonstrate, effects such as the expectancy effect—where the participants attempt to please the researcher—and the social desirability effect—where the participants respond in a different way to appear socially acceptable—could occur.

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The Different Precursors of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (2018, October 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from
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