It is not unusual for human beings to be a little narcissistic and is a developmental stage that every teenager and young adult passes through. However, what if that narcissism continues into adult life? What problems do narcissists cause for themselves and their children?
This article will examine what narcissism is, some of the warning signs that you may be an adult victim of a narcissist, and much more.
What is a Narcissist?
The term “narcissist” describes people, reportedly more men than women, who have inflated senses of self-importance. Other symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, an inability to handle criticism, and a blatant disregard for the feelings of others. They are also lacking empathy toward others and will not take the blame for their own actions.
Narcissists are found everywhere; however, they tend to gravitate toward jobs that put them in positions of power.
There are some warning signs that a person in your life is a narcissist.
- A narcissist has blurred boundaries and will ignore yours. They may invade your privacy and steal or “borrow” your belongings without your permission.
- Narcissists will not acknowledge, nor will they honor any boundaries you set.
- They believe they always know what is best.
- You are the one doing all the giving and they the taking.
- Narcissists make you uneasy in their presence, causing you to walk on eggshells around them for fear of their next attack.
- You feel a great relief when the narcissist is not present.
- Narcissists will manipulate you and use any flaws or vulnerabilities against you.
- In the presence of a narcissist, one may feel unlovable, take all the blame for the behavior of the narcissist, and feel inadequate.
Narcissists often treat all the people in their lives, including their children, as though they can do whatever they want with their lives.
The Effects of Narcissism on Children
According to an article written by Shashida Arubi for Psych Central, narcissistic parents do not have children to nurture and love. Instead, narcissists have children because they need someone to control. They also have children because they feel the need to be cared for and will manipulate their kids to do so.
The narcissistic abuse of children happens behind closed doors and leaves no physical scars to prove it has happened. These kids spend their entire existence waltzing to the music of the narcissist but never being good enough to please their parents. However, children cannot keep up with their parent’s whims. Because of this, children of narcissists end up feeling inadequate.
Narcissistic parents teach their young children that everything they do is a reflection of who they are. They demand that their kids fit into the behavioral mold they have decided they must be.
Narcissistic parents also have detrimental effects on the mental health of their children. One study found that parental narcissism is directly related to children’s depression and anxiety (Dentali et al. 2015).
The Pain from Living With a Narcissistic Parent
Adult children of narcissists have extreme pain in their souls from the treatment they received as kids. The treatment of their parents towards them leaves invisible scars that, without professional help, may not heal.
Children of narcissists often feel afraid to form close relationships and when they do feel suspicious and on guard at all times. Sometimes adult children of narcissistic parents build no connections at all, deciding instead to remain single and unattached.
Hypervigilance and being easily triggered are two of the traits that can inhibit an adult victim of narcissism from enjoying their lives. They have an enduring sense of doom as though nuclear war or something equally horrible is about to happen.
They are always waiting for the next negative encounter.
The Effects Growing Up With a Narcissist Has On Children
Growing up with a narcissistic parent is akin to being a small animal in a lion’s den. One always feels as the prey and hunker in fear of the next insult their parent is about to perpetrate against them.
Narcissistic parents affect their children in several ways, including:
- The child does not feel heard or seen
- Narcissists treat their children as though they were extensions of themselves and ‘hooked at the hip’ with them
- The child grows up using dissociation as a tool to escape their fear of being real and taking on pain of knowing their parent is abusive
- These kids learn to be secretive to protect the narcissist in their home
- The child feels emotionally empty and does not develop a healthy self-esteem
- The child feels used and manipulated
- The child of a narcissist will feel an obligation to care for nurture their parent instead of the other way around
- Children of narcissists have a difficult time understanding and setting healthy boundaries with other people.
It is not only in childhood that a narcissistic parent negatively affects the lives of their children. When these children become adults, the damages can come into focus as they struggle to know what normalcy is and their own self-worth. Three traits of adult children of narcissist’s experience (there are many more) are listed below.
- Adult children of narcissists grow up feeling “not good enough.”
- Adult children of narcissists grow up with a crippling self-doubt
- Adult children also learn early not to trust their own instincts
There are many more ways that narcissistic parents affect the lives of their children both when they are living at home and when they grow into adults.
Female Narcissists and Their Children
Most people are familiar with abuse perpetrated in the form of sexual and physical violence against children. But, how many people have heard of abuse executed upon children by female narcissists.
Although it is reported that a large percentage of narcissists are men, this is most likely because society does not want to think of mothers as abusers.
Since our culture idealizes motherhood, people have a difficult time conceiving of a mother harming their children. We would instead hold onto the notion of a mother giving of herself to her children and showing them unconditional love.
Narcissistic mothers are incapable of showing empathy and may appear to others outside the home as a normal loving mom. But at home, be manipulating and controlling.
Narcissism destroys the lives of all the people affected by it. This includes the life of the narcissist as well as the people that love them. It may seem insane for people raised by narcissists to feel loyalty and love for them, but this is totally normal. Children are supposed to love their parents; it is a hard-wired behavior. However, they do not need to allow the behavior of their parent(s) to inhibit their lives forever.
The next articles will cover narcissistic abuse syndrome, its causes, and how to escape from a narcissistic relationship and still remain intact.
“The fact of the matter is, if you haven’t been in an abusive relationship, you don’t really know what the experience is like. Furthermore, it’s quite hard to predict what you would do in the same situation. I find that the people most vocal about what they would’ve done in the same situation often have no clue what they are talking about – they have never been in the same situation themselves.
By invalidating the survivor’s experience, these people are defending an image of themselves that they identify with strength, not realizing that abuse survivors are often the strongest individuals out there. They’ve been belittled, criticized, demeaned, devalued, and yet they’ve still survived. The judgmental ones often have little to no life experience regarding these situations, yet they feel quite comfortable silencing the voices of people who’ve actually been there.” ~ Shahida Arabi,
If you or a loved one are living in the despair and isolation that comes with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please, come to us for help. The CPTSD Foundation offers a wide range of services including:
- Daily Calls
- The Healing Book Club
- Mindfulness, Prayer, and Meditation Circle
- Support Groups
- Our Blog
- The Trauma-Informed Newsletter
- Daily Encouragement Texts
All our services are reasonably priced, and some are even free. So, to gain more insight into how complex post-traumatic stress disorder is altering your life and how you can overcome it, sign-up, we will be glad to help you.
Dentale, F., Verrastro, V., Petruccelli, I., Diotaiuti, P., Petruccelli, F., Cappelli, L., & San Martini, P. (2015). Relationship between parental narcissism and children’s mental vulnerability: Mediation role of rearing style. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 15(3), 337-347.
My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to communicate with the world. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me.