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If You Have A Narcissistic Parent: Don’t Miss the Results of This Study

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

Living with a Narcissistic Parent

If you were raised by a narcissistic parent, you know how it felt. Perhaps you grew up, like my client Sarah, always on guard. As a child, you mastered “reading the room.” Like a sailor testing the prevailing winds, your safety hinged upon sensing your parent’s mood and behavior.

As an adult, your emotional radar, your empathy, is fine-tuned to the needs of others. However, it’s not so easy to have empathy for yourself. Since people rarely talk about the experience of being raised by a narcissistic parent, you may feel alone with this problem, or even ashamed. Maybe you don’t spend holidays with your parents or you don’t see them at all.  Maybe you do, but every moment is painful. What’s wrong with you?

The Study

In 2017, Dr. Claire M. Hart from the University of Southhampton in the United Kingdom and her co-authors, Reece D. Bush-Evans, Erica G. Hepper, and Hannah M. Hickman, published their study: “The children of narcissus: Insights into narcissists’ parenting styles” in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The authors conducted an online study of 368 parents.  They examined several ideas in this study. For example, parents completed a series of questionnaires to assess if they had traits of maladaptive narcissism, traits which impact relationships. These traits include grandiosity, self-centeredness, lack of empathy, entitlement, exploitiveness, and exhibitionism. Parents also completed questionnaires which measured their degree of empathy.

Narcissus flower
Narcissus flower

The authors wanted to see if parents who scored high on the maladaptive traits of narcissism were less likely to engage in optimal parenting practices.

Here is a brief overview of what they found:

  • Parents scoring higher in total and maladaptive narcissism had lower empathy.

  • Parents with narcissistic traits were less likely to use an optimal parenting style, based on warmth and responsiveness (known as the authoritative parenting style).

  • Parents with narcissistic traits were more likely to use one of the two non-optimal parenting styles, known as authoritarian and permissive. These parenting styles are characterized, respectively, by lack of warmth and rigidity, and warmth but lack of limits and structure.

Why This Research Matters

This is one of the first studies to find a correlation between parental narcissism and non-optimal parenting. Dr. Hart and her co-authors write, “Exploring links between parental personality and parenting allows researchers to identify individuals at risk of poor parenting.”  Researchers can then identify effective interventions. 

In addition, in an email communication with me, Dr. Hart stated that future research might go beyond grandiose narcissism and  explore the connection between the quieter form of narcissism—known as covert or vulnerable narcissism-- and its impact on parenting practices.  

Studies such as this one will help adults with narcissistic parents feel better understood by themselves and by others. Feeling understood is the first step to moving forward.

If you were raised by a narcissist and would like help or more information, please contact Dr. Stephanie Kriesberg  at

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Dec 06, 2021

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