How A Narcissistic Father Affects Their Children
There is no doubt that our parents build the foundation based on which we grow and prosper in life. But when your father is a narcissist, then your sense of self and perception of the world can become seriously skewed. If you have a narcissistic and toxic parent, then they may believe that you exist solely to meet their needs, demands, wishes and dreams. You are likely to suffer from poor self-esteem and constantly experience shame, guilt and humiliation. “Being raised by a narcissist gives rise to a belief throughout our lives that we are just not ‘good enough’ despite everything we try and bending over backwards to please others,” explains career and leadership coach Kathy Caprino. She adds that children with toxic fathers tend to be deeply insecure, overly-sensitive and lack the ability to believe that they are lovable and worthy just as they are. Unfortunately, growing up with narcissism makes them familiar with unhealthy and toxic relationships. As a result, they unconsciously seek out relationships as adults that are narcissistic and toxic in nature, whether romantically or professionally.
Narcissism is becoming a growing concern for our society. Research shows that 1 out of 16 American adults have experienced clinical narcissism at least once in their lives. According to psychiatrist and author Mark Banschick, M.D., fathers with NPD adversely affect their own children as they “may disregard boundaries, manipulate their children by withholding affection (until they perform), and neglect to meet their children’s needs because their needs come first.” As they are overly concerned with image, they often demand perfection from their children. The child grows up in an environment where there is constant pressure to perform, to be better and to fulfil every whim and fancy of their father.
Children with a narcissistic father can become highly successful in life as they tend to be high achievers as a result of growing up with unreasonable expectations from parents. However, due to the constant childhood abuse and trauma, they also tend to self-sabotage their own success. Moreover, a child with a toxic father may be affected by narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) themselves when they grow up, according to a recent 2020 study. The study states that remembered childhood experiences from mothers and fathers “were associated with higher traits of pathological narcissism in young people.” Thus, the children of narcissists continue the loop of toxicity, manipulation and suffering with their own children.
Daughters With “Daddy Issues”
Daughters and fathers share a unique bond that enables them to grow up into confident, independent, responsible and trusting women. However, when fathers abuse their daughters or withhold affection, then it can affect the child’s sense of self worth and self-esteem even in adulthood. If you are the daughter of a narcissistic father, then it is likely that you have been repeatedly overly criticized, emotionally abused, traumatized and forced to meet ridiculously high standards. Growing up with a narcissistic father can make daughters question their sense of self, their identity, self- worth and confidence. All the years of insults, humiliations and disapprovals can also lead to mental health issues and self-sabotaging & self-criticizing behaviors. In fact, it can also affect the child’s long term health.
You may strongly doubt your own worthiness, talents, capabilities, potential and appearance. Moreover, you are conditioned to self-sacrifice in adult relationships and being comfortable with toxic romantic partners. As an adult you attract and look for relationships where you can find the same narcissistic patterns that you experienced in childhood from your father. By reenacting and reliving the same abuse and trauma in your adult relationships, you feel worthy of love and validation. Unfortunately, such self-sabotaging behavior can lead to the development of severe stress, anxiety disorders, depression, substance use, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even suicidal behavior.
Psychiatrist Mark Banschick, M.D. explains that daughters with a narcissistic father can feel “unsatiated” as most of their paternal needs are left unmet. “They never got enough and would have to compete with siblings for time with Dad. You probably carry these concerns into adulthood, even if you found success. With a dad like this, it’s never enough. With men (or women), you often feel vulnerable and worried you’ll be dumped for someone else,” he adds. You may also develop narcissistic traits to protect yourself.
Sons Who Are Never “Good Enough”
Contrary to popular belief, sons need as much love and admiration from their fathers as daughters. Sadly, when you grow up with a narcissistic father, you start falsely believing that you will never be as good of a man as your father was. He might have made you feel unimportant or inconsequential. Not only did he avoid showing any warmth and attention, he competed with you instead. “You may have accepted defeat – you’d never outdo your dad. Or, you may have worked hard to beat Dad at his own game just to get his attention and some semblance of fatherly pride,” adds Mark. No matter how hard you try or how much you achieve, there’s always an empty void inside.