Nature Or Nurture: Are Narcissists Born Or Made?

nature or nurture are narcissists born

Do children or adolescents really behave in a grandiose and entitled manner of their own volition? Isn’t it more likely that they have learned how to be arrogant, vain, and condescending? That they have modeled other people in their environment, first and foremost their adult significant others? Children learn about feelings and appropriate behavior through their parents’ mirroring. Grandiose behavior is not self-initiated, so how can it be genetic?

Want to know more about what makes a narcissist? Check this video out below!

Several scientific articles have also been written on the subject of brain structure and gray matter abnormalities[3] in NPD persons. What these authors focused on is another hallmark of narcissists, the lack of empathy. I have already written in one of my other blogs that narcissists don’t lack empathy, they just experience it differently.

It is more self-referenced and intellectual compared to the empathy most other people feel. Of the three articles I mention, this one is the most scientifically watertight because brain imagery was used. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore neuroplasticity and the impact parenting has on the development of the brain. Just like psychotherapy can play a restorative role in enhancing the creation of new connections between neurons [4]. Therefore, the nurture component can’t be completely dismissed.

Related: The Difference Between Traditional and Hidden Narcissism

Wouldn’t it be easier if the origins of narcissism were attributable to genetic factors alone? It would mean that we, as parents and members of society, hold zero responsibility for the development of pathological narcissism in children and later on in adults. Sadly, the nurture component cannot be ignored. Although the genetic makeup of an individual is not negligible, I still strongly believe that narcissists are made, not born.

Even if someone has a temperament that is susceptible to lead that individual in the narcissistic direction, it is still the nurture component that can reroute it into a healthier one. 


[1]Afacan Y, Chaudhry F, Santangelo V, Shkolnik A (2017) Narcissism is Genetic and the Superego Keeps it in Check. JSM Anxiety Depress 2(1): 1021.

[2] Luo, Y. L., Cai, H., & Song, H. (2014). A behavioral genetic study of intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of narcissism. PloS one, 9(4), e93403. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093403

[3] Schulze, L., Dziobek, I., Vater, A., Heekeren, H., Bajbouj, M., Renneberg, B., Heuser, I., & Roepke, S. (2013). Gray matter abnormalities in patients with narcissistic personality disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47(10), 1363-1369.

[4] Malhotra, S., & Sahoo, S. (2017). Rebuilding the brain with psychotherapy. Indian journal of psychiatry, 59(4), 411–419. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.217299

Written By Katarina Valentini
Originally Appeared In Katarina K Valentini
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Nature Or Nurture: Are Narcissists Born Or Made?
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Nature Or Nurture: Are Narcissists Born Or Made?
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