What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Parent?

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  • Originally Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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The primary signs of a narcissistic parent are feelings of superiority or fame, which often go hand in hand with behaviors that promote a sense of inferiority or low self-worth in the involved children. Parents with this condition are also usually unable to empathize with their children, and may believe that a child’s emotions and struggles aren’t legitimate. Narcissism is a clinical psychological condition and it can be quite serious, but it’s also very rare. A parent who displays these symptoms isn’t necessarily a narcissist, particularly if he or she only displays them periodically or sporadically. Parents who are arrogant, insecure, or just generally unprepared for various circumstances may show narcissistic tendencies even if they aren’t actually suffering from the condition. The effects on children can be long lasting and potentially serious, though, which makes treatment and therapy quite important.

Understanding Narcissism Generally

Narcissistic personality disorder essentially materializes as a feeling that the sufferer is somehow better than the people around him or her. This feeling of superiority often causes issues in other areas of life, such as relationships, careers, and finances. The cause of the condition is not fully known, but as with many psychological conditions, it is thought to stem from childhood. The underlying issue with this condition is generally thought to be low self-esteem, which manifests itself as a desire to be better than everybody else. This is responsible for the majority of the symptoms associated with the condition.


In general, a narcissistic person has a high opinion of himself or herself, sets unrealistic goals, and is unable to empathize with the feelings of others. Narcissistic people are also prone to exaggerate any of their achievements, expect praise constantly, and have trouble recognizing authority.

The chances of having a narcissistic parent are very low; experts generally estimate that less than 1% of families worldwide see this sort of problem. As with many psychological conditions, narcissism has varying degrees, so a parent may be only slightly narcissistic, and the problem may therefore be more difficult to recognize.

Feelings of Fame and Superiority

The main symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder that are usually evident in a parent with this condition are a feeling of superiority towards others, fantasies of power or fame, and exaggerating achievements and talents. Parents who suffer from narcissism will often constantly tell their children about things achieved, and will typically expect enthusiastic praise in response.

Promoting Inferiority in Children

Children may also be made to feel inferior to the parent, which may be evident through the parent downplaying the positive qualities of their child and exaggerating their own in a competitive fashion. Narcissism may also cause a parent to set lofty and unrealistic goals, both for him or herself and also for the child, particularly if the child’s achievements could be seen as advantageous to the parent. He or she will also expect everybody to agree with plans or ideas proposed, and may be hurt if this is not the case. A child may also notice that a parent feels rejected or despondent if he or she doesn't receive the expected positive attention.

Inability to Empathize

A child may also notice that a narcissistic parent is unable to empathize with the feelings of others or even recognize them, and might as a consequence take advantage of people to get certain things. This may be particularly noticeable when the child is unhappy, because the parent is often unable to show understanding of the child's issues, and will often appear entirely unemotional.

Differentiating Arrogance

A son or daughter trying to determine whether a parent has clinical narcissism should look out for several of the symptoms before considering it a serious possibility. This is because the chances of having a narcissistic parent are very low, and ordinary arrogance is a more common explanation. It is also important for the observer to attempt to detach himself or herself from any preconceptions about the behavior. For example, one symptom of narcissism is taking advantage of other people to achieve selfish ends, but this is a subjective observation, and any preconceptions could lead to a false assumption about what is or isn’t occurring.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

I think the 1 percent of the population and "rarely" happens in families is inaccurate. I would bet Vegas cash on a higher number. Besides, it almost seems to imply that those of us who were raised by parents with this type of disorder should feel even more odd and dysfunctional for having done so.

Yes, it was and is a hard rocky cruel cold road to travel on. Emotional honesty non-existent! Loving people who can never truly be pleased or can never relax and let go of their facade-people who will never be themselves perhaps because they never quite figured it who that was themselves. Parents who themselves had tragedy and such: the culture of this society

has always been for appearance first then monetary worth or vice versa. It's an overall sense of what can you do for me me me is rampant these days. I think the low percentage needs a fresh look at least a check again. Thanks for the info.
Post 3

My dad won't let me get a pixie cut because he said "It'll make my face look fat", but in reality, he doesn't want me to become a dyke. He won't let me out much, and my grades have to be average or he will constantly yell at me. He already does. He says I'm useless, lazy, a brat, and says things like "Thanks for nothing", and "I wish I could count on you". He even said he's rethinking having children. I know this isn't an advice board, but what do I do? I'm only 11!

Post 2

The term narcissistic parent makes me think of parents who push their children into a certain sport and try to live vicariously through the children's achievements in the sport. They are loud and vocal and draw attention to themselves and their children through their boasting and cheering at games. Of course narcissistic behavior is different than a narcissistic personality, but sports is one area where I see narcissistic behavior.

Post 1

Life could be very difficult for a child with a narcissistic parent.

In addition to the attributes mentioned in the article, narcissism is usually associated with extreme vanity and arrogance.

In fact, the term narcissistic comes from Narcissus, a character in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection in the water.

A narcissistic parent is apt to feel that any child they do not consider beautiful is not a good representation of them or their own physical appearance.

As a result, the parent may shun the child or take great pains to try to improve his or her looks, whether through buying fancy clothes and make up or even forcing the child to have plastic surgery.

Any child being constantly told and reminded by his or her parent that they are not pretty or handsome enough is likely to believe that thinking and develop very low self esteem.

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