The narcissistic family is a relatively recent development in psychology, when researchers realized that children raised in narcissistic families turned out very much like those children raised by abusive or substance-addicted parents, even if the children were never abused or technically mistreated. In this type of family, the interactions among family members are characterized by selfishness and competition; parents are generally more concerned about their own happiness and well being than that of their children, and will often pit siblings against each other to spur competition. Communication in a narcissistic family is often very poor, and the unspoken goal is to keep up a happy appearance, and make sure that from the outside, everything looks perfect.
Each narcissistic family can be slightly different, but these key principles are generally found in the interactions between family members. One of the most common aspects of this type of family, as discussed above, is the parental drive to keep up appearances. Emotions are not generally expressed at all in this type of family, and secrets are kept very close. If children are praised, it is generally for their successes that can be viewed by other people, not necessarily for the type of people they actually are. The message that children are not good enough is often given in this type of family.
The lack of boundaries is another common issue found in a narcissistic family. Parental roles might not be clearly defined, and privacy is not often respected. This is often because the parents genuinely do not care about the children's feelings. Some will actually withhold affection from the child until the child learns to meet the needs of the parent. These are just a few of the most common relationship dynamics found in a narcissistic family; often, other people cannot even tell this is going on, as it is so difficult to pinpoint and define, and because the family is so concerned with maintaining a positive image to show the rest of the world.
Children who come from narcissistic families often display similar traits themselves, and eventually pass it on to their own children. They may have difficulty with intimate relationships and display selfishness and poor communication abilities in interactions with other people; some suffer from anger issues, low self-esteem, and depression. Without psychological treatment, it is very difficult to break these habits once they become so deeply ingrained after being raised in this environment.