There are plenty of things that could turn your kid into a narcissist, but if social media is your favorite scapegoat researchers have some news for you: Sorry, it’s not so much SnapChat’s fault as it is yours. The study out of Ohio State University found overpraising your offspring could earn them one hell of a participation ribbon for being full of themselves. (Try telling that to Lebron’s mom.)
Researchers looked at 2 competing theories, because they too love a good feud — psychoanalytic theory, which suggests narcissism comes from parents withholding praise, and social learning theory which argues it’s the exact opposite. They did this by surveying 565 kids ages 7 to 11 and their parents every 6 months over the course of a year and a half. Kids were asked if they agreed with statements like “Kids like me deserve something extra,” and “Kids like me are happy with themselves as a person,” while parents were asked to rate how they valued their kids overall. The results revealed that parental “overvaluation” was the largest predictor of a kid’s narcissism over time. So if your gold star sticker budget is literally off your kid’s chart, then this conclusion probably applies to you.
“People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others,” Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and father of 3 explained to Forbes. Bushman also admitted that his work on narcissism has changed his parenting style. “When I first started doing this research in the 1990s, I used to think my children should be treated like they were extra-special. I’m careful not to do that now,” he said. But even if you alter your approach like Bushman, that doesn’t change that narcissism is partially determined by genetics as well. So if praise isn’t the problem, you could still be. And that may be why you thought this study was about you.