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Is Narcissism Inherited? Can Narcissism Be Passed On From Parents To Children?

is narcissism inherited

Is narcissism inherited? Can children develop narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) from their parents? This is something I have personally wondered for years and have finally delved into the science behind the genetics of narcissism.

The curse of narcissism

Is narcissism inherited?
Is Narcissism Inherited? Can Narcissism Be Passed On From Parents To Children?

There are certain things I am really good at, but not really proud of. Things like manipulating, lying, criticizing, breaking someone’s confidence, gaslighting, exploiting others, being vindictive and just plain destructive. Things I never wanted to be, but things I really excel at. Being an introvert, I have always wondered why I have these tendencies to manipulate people even though that is not what I truly want. Then I realized these traits – traits that I don’t really fully understand – I have inherited from my narcissistic mother. Narcissistic traits that have not only been passed on to me by my mother, but narcissistic behaviors that I have learned by growing around them.

So is narcissism inherited? Unfortunately, narcissism runs in families. Studies have found that narcissism can be passed on among family members and can be inherited. 

Related reading: 7 Common Myths About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Is narcissism hereditary?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder where the sufferer has an inflated sense of self-importance. Narcissists have a strong need for external validation, admiration and praise. They also lack empathy & compassion and often end up with toxic relationships. Although they may seem extremely confident, in reality they are full of self-doubt and are burdened with low self-esteem. 

But is narcissism inherited? Yes. The unfortunate reality is that children can often inherit such traits from their parents or close relatives. Research indicates that although shared familial environmental effects have a strong influence on a child’s personality development, narcissism is an inheritable psychological condition. If someone in your family has a history of narcissism or any personality disorder, then it is likely that you may also develop narcissistic traits. In fact one study found that “the heritability appeared to be .79 for narcissistic” personality disorder. 

Narcissistic personality disorder has a strong genetic predisposition that can lead to certain negative traits such as lack of emotion regulation, lower ability to cope with stress and high aggression. Studies claim that heritability of narcissism is about 77% in clinical sample and around “24% in the general population and there is no shared environmental influence or sex effect.”

Related reading: Are Narcissists Smarter Than Other People?

Is Narcissism Inherited? Can Narcissism Be Passed On From Parents To Children?
Is Narcissism Inherited? Can Narcissism Be Passed On From Parents To Children?

Is narcissism genetic?

Narcissistic traits are not always genetic. Then is narcissism a learned behavior?

When looking for the answer to the question “Is narcissism inherited?”, we also need to consider certain other factors as well. Researchers have found that narcissistic traits like entitlement and grandiosity are “moderatelyheritable. “The two dimensions of narcissism, intrapersonal grandiosity and interpersonal entitlement, are heritable and largely independent of each other in terms of their genetic and environmental sources,” explain the researchers. However, one 2015 study reveals that narcissism can be instilled in children through attachment styles and parenting styles as well.Narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation,” adds the study.

As narcissism is partially based on early socialization experiences, parents treating their children as entitled and special can unknowingly raise narcissistic children. However, when a parent expresses realistic expectations, appreciation and affection toward their children, then kids can develop healthy self-esteem.

Moreover, certain negative childhood and developmental experiences, such as early attachment style, childhood trauma, neglect, rejection & abandonment can also lead to a fragile ego and poor self-esteem, paving the way for narcissism in adulthood. On the other hand, overparenting, constant praise and believing your child is extraordinary can also lead to narcissism in children. 

Related reading: The Anatomy of Narcissism

Remembered childhood environments of being excessively pampered are associated with grandiose and vulnerable narcissistic traits, characterised by the young person expressing unrealistic self-views, entitlement beliefs and impaired autonomy,” states one 2020 study

So is narcissism inherited? Yes, but childhood experiences also play a crucial role in the development of this personality disorder. 

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts