Is it possible to give a child too much praise? Researchers took a look at this question and how it may relate to creating narcissistic adults. Here’s what they found:
“Narcissistic individuals feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently. Unfortunately, little is known about the origins of narcissism. Such knowledge is important for designing interventions to curtail narcissistic development. We demonstrate that narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation: parents believing their child to be more special and more entitled than others. In contrast, high self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth: parents expressing affection and appreciation toward their child. These findings show that narcissism is partly rooted in early socialization experiences, and suggest that parent-training interventions can help curtail narcissistic development and reduce its costs for society.”
“Narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth, and contribute to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism, however, are not well understood. Here, we report, to our knowledge, the first prospective longitudinal evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. We compared two perspectives: social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation) and psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth). We timed the study in late childhood (ages 7–12), when individual differences in narcissism first emerge. In four 6-mo waves, 565 children and their parents reported child narcissism, child self-esteem, parental overvaluation, and parental warmth. Four-wave cross-lagged panel models were conducted. Results support social learning theory and contradict psychoanalytic theory: Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation, not by lack of parental warmth. Thus, children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them (e.g., “I am superior to others” and “I am entitled to privileges”). Attesting to the specificity of this finding, self-esteem was predicted by parental warmth, not by parental overvaluation.“
Bottom Line: Let your praise and encouragement be realistic with your child. Remember that parental warmth and demonstrations of love are what’s most important for your child’s optimal development.
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