Narcissistic Fathers: The Dark Shadow They Cast From Childhood To Adulthood

narcissistic father

Toxic fathers can be stubborn and authoritarian. They may be overly strict about the importance of their own opinions and a particular way of getting things done. Some narcissistic dads may be over-involved and micro-manage their son’s life while some others may be emotionally or physically unavailable being too busy with their own work or pleasures. Being perfectionists, they will never be happy with your progress in life, whether it’s education, career or relationships. They will make you feel like a burden and will shame and hyper-criticize any flaws or drawbacks that you may have. You may become codependent in case you don’t turn into a narcissist yourself when you grow up. “Sons of narcissistic fathers are driven by lack of confidence. Raised by a self-centered, competitive, arrogant father, they feel like they can never measure up or are enough to garner their father’s approval,” explains author and therapist Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT.

Read also: The 5 Child Roles In Dysfunctional Families

Traits Of Adult Children With A Narcissistic Father

Your father can cast a long shadow that can engulf you and leave you in the dark longer than you can think. When you have been raised by a narcissistic, toxic dad, it can not only impact your childhood, but also leave lasting emotional and mental scars in your adult life as well. The abuse and manipulation you are subjected to can not just affect your attitude and mindset, it can also shape your personality. Clinical psychologist and author Craig Malkin, Ph.D. believes that as an adult you can experience the following effects when you are raised by a narcissistic father:

1. Self-blame

Narcissistic dads are emotionally unavailable, selfish and abusive. They are not concerned with what their children are going through or feeling. Unfortunately, as children tend to be sensitive and are dependent on their parents, they compensate their need for love and affection at the cost of their self-esteem.Sadly, we often blame ourselves for what’s missing from our lives to preserve a shred of hope,” explains Craig. As an adult, you will be prone to blaming yourself and feeling responsible for anything that goes wrong around you. Chronic self-blame is a coping strategy that allows you to maintain harmony.

2. Unhealthy attachment

Children with narcissistic fathers tend to develop an insecure attachment style, not just with their parents, but also with their romantic partners once they grow up. You are unable to experience comfort, closeness and warmth in relationships as you have become used to abuse, manipulation and neglect. Hence, as an adult you will likely attract narcissistic partners as well. Moreover, you will be codependent and needy in relationships constantly demanding love and attention.

Read also: Why Daughters of Narcissists Are Drawn to Narcissistic Men

3. Echoism

Echoism is regarded as the polar opposite of narcissism. Echoist are afraid of attention and worry that others will perceive them as a narcissist. If you were raised by a narcissistic father, then you fear taking away any form of attention from your dad in order to maintain the peace and avoid triggering dear dad. As an adult, you now work hard to make sure that your father doesn’t have any emotional or angry outbursts. “If you’re particularly sensitive or empathic by nature, you’re more likely to respond to narcissistic parenting with a stance I call echoism,” writes Craig. He adds “Echoists struggle to have a voice of their own – and often end up with extremely narcissistic partners.”

4. Avoiding needs 

If you grew up with a toxic father then you have likely learned to avoid your own needs in order to cater to the needs of your dad. “Narcissistic parents can make their children terrified of their needs, who bury them by becoming compulsive caretakers or simply falling silent,” explains Craig Malkin Ph.D. Then something may trigger their repressed needs making them seek immediate and continuous reassurance. This is known as ‘need-panic’.

Narcissistic Fathers: The Dark Shadow They Cast From Childhood To Adulthood
Narcissistic Fathers: The Dark Shadow They Cast From Childhood To Adulthood

5. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

It is likely that a child raised by a father with narcissism will grow up to be a narcissist themself. The child can often develop NPD traits as a coping mechanism to protect their own self-esteem. Craig explains “If you’re born with a stubborn, bombastic temperament and exposed to the kind of neglectful or abusive parenting narcissists often provide, you’re more likely to end up narcissistic yourself.”

Read also: How Parents Create Narcissistic Children

6. Parentified children

A narcissistic father often raises a frightened child who is afraid of being a burden on others and avoids their own needs. Instead, they focus primarily on their father’s needs and desires and ensure that daddy’s self-esteem is always boosted. This is especially true for sensitive children or little empaths. When they grow up, they focus more on others’ happiness rather than their own. They are forced to have the mindset of an adult from an early age.

7. A strong sense of independence

Extroverted children of narcissistic dads may stop relying on others for love and affection and may become aloof and emotionally unavailable themselves. Conversely, sensitive children may develop ‘Martyr Complex’ and become selfless caretakers. They may believe that only by taking care of others, they can enjoy warmth and intimacy.

8. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can be a real outcome of being raised by a narcissistic father, especially once you become an adult. Abusive fathers can easily traumatize their own sons and daughters leading to long term stress, anxiety, depression, emotional emptiness and suicidal thoughts. As an adult you can be terrified of living fully, while staying hypervigilant and avoiding intimacy in romantic relationships.

Read also: 5 Traits of Children of Narcissistic Parents

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