Narcissism And Child Mental Health

Narcissism And Child Mental Health

Ideally, childhood is a time of wonder, play, and discovery as facilitated by parents who provide children with sufficient safety and security to explore the world and grow to reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, some children have one or more parents who struggle to provide their children with a consistent experience of feeling safe, secure, and unconditionally loved. In some more extreme instances, these are children raised by a caretaker contending with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the effects of which can be traumatic and linger into adulthood.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

When we hear the word narcissist, we may think of certain politicians or celebrities who are known for boastful or arrogant behavior. Primary characteristics of narcissism are a lack of empathy and the inability to recognize the emotional needs of others. While these traits can produce behavior that is difficult to understand from a distance, narcissism, when experienced in-person and in an ongoing way, can be particularly impactful to those in the relationship with the narcissist, especially if the exposure to the narcissist occurs during childhood. For example, narcissistic parents may view their children as competition and work to deny them independent personhood.

Other traits of narcissistic parents can include:

  • Inflexibility
  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Superficiality
  • Self-involvement
  • Sense of superiority

How Can A Narcissistic Parent Impact Mental Health In Children?

The following are some common ways children and adult children of narcissist parents describe feeling about themselves or their lives more generally:

Low Self-Worth: You grow up feeling unseen and unheard. Your emotional needs never really mattered.

Codependency: Narcissistic parents make sure it’s always about them. Children grow up feeling responsible for meeting the needs of their parents. Consequently, they learn how to please others, but not how to form healthy boundaries in relationships.

Self-Doubt: Narcissists are often prone to lies and manipulation. They will perhaps gaslight their children into believing a false reality. As a result, children can develop intense self-doubt to include difficulty trusting their own feelings.

If you view your relationship with your parent(s) as consistent with some aspects of what is described above, know that working with a skilled, experienced psychologist, therapist, or counselor can help with the development of enhanced sense of self, increased self-compassion, or more stable relationships with others. If you are interested in further exploring these concerns, I invite you to call or email me to get started working together. Telehealth appointments are available.


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