A narcissistic parent is a parent that has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The effects of narcissistic parenting can be traumatic and damaging for a child and can ultimately lead to that child growing up to also become a narcissist.
Narcissistic parents tend to be very possessive over their children and this type of parenting is often also referred to as helicopter parenting. Narcissistic parents feel threatened by and are often jealous of their child’s growing independence. Consciously or unconsciously they believe that their child is there to fulfill their wishes and needs. This parental behaviour has far reaching effects on the child.
Children of narcissistic parents often think that they are the problem because the parent only pays attention to the child’s mistakes and their own problems. The children start blaming themselves. This can also serve as a self-preserving mechanism to hold out hope. They think that if they fix themselves the situation will get better. If they do well their parents will be nicer to them. Children that have been brought up in a narcissistic style often have trouble dealing with their feelings and can get very emotional over minor occurrences.
The attachment theory describes the dynamics and interpersonal relationships between people. A large part of the attachment style is is determined by the relationship style children develop with their caretakers. There are three main types of attachment, namely secure, insecure and disorganized. Narcissistic parenting often results in insecure attachment which has two subtypes. An insecure avoidant style is characterized by an avoidant nature where children think I will never risk letting myself get hurt again. The other subtype is an insecure anxious attachment which is characterized by an attitude that more or less chases after the secure connection and causes children to think “why won’t they like me, why won’t anyone pay attention to me?”.
Extreme Emotional Independence
Some children might react to narcissistic parenting by abandoning emotional attachment altogether. They grow into solitary, distrusting adults and have difficulty forming close personal connections.
Some children may even go the complete opposite way, turning into extremely nurturing individuals. This could possibly be caused by am unconscious desire to vicariously experience the care and warmth they didn’t receive themselves.
Children who have experienced extreme forms of narcissistic parenting often struggle with these results for life in the form of post traumatic stress disorder. They might have invasive thoughts of emotional abuse, experience severe emotional numbness or undergo other symptom of PTSD. This effect is particularly prevalent among children that also experienced physical abuse.
Some children raised by narcissistic parents react by thinking I’ll make sure I am so good at everything that nobody can make me feel unimportant again. People who do this go to extremes to focus on themselves and their own achievements becoming narcissistic themselves.
As you can see from above the effects of narcissistic parenting can have far reaching consequences that will impact a child’s life for many years to come.