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"A narcissistic parent is typically exclusively and possessively close to his or her child... [and] may be especially envious of a child's growing independence."[1]

The result may be what has been termed "narcissistic attachment"—the child always exists for the parent's benefit.[2]


Whereas the "good-enough" parent is confident enough to allow a child's autonomy, "a pathologically narcissistic parent... [may] need to extract a specific performance from the child to glorify [him/]herself."[3] Thus, for example, "the nonmirroring father who was preoccupied with his own self-enhancement and... insisted on being looked up to and imitated"[4] may produce a son who "began to see himself as a 'puppet' of his father"—one who "learned early in life to put other people's emotional needs ahead of [his] own."[5]

According to American psychologist Alan Rappoport, narcissistic parents "demand certain behavior from their children because they see the children as extensions of themselves, and need the children to represent them in the world in ways that meet the parents’ emotional needs. (For example, a narcissistic father who was a lawyer demanded that his son, who had always been the favorite child, enter the legal profession as well. When the son chose another career, the father rejected and disparaged him.)[6] Such a "narcissistic parent likes to take credit for his child's successes," and in the face of the child's independence "may experience a sense of loss, the child having served as an important source of self esteem."[7]

"These traits will lead overly narcissistic parents to be very intrusive in some ways, and entirely neglectful in others. The children are punished if they do not respond adequately to the parents' needs. This punishment may take a variety of forms, including physical abuse, angry outbursts, blame, attempts to instill guilt, emotional neglect, and criticism. Whatever form it takes, the purpose of the punishment is to enforce compliance with the parents' narcissistic needs."[6]


Nina W. Brown, in her book Children of the Self Absorbed, provides specific checklists for readers to identify a "destructive narcissistic pattern" in a parent.[8] She suggests examining "their parents' behaviour in the past... whether they turn every conversation to themselves, constantly demand attention, fish for compliments, fail to listen, use possessions without asking, find laughing at themselves hard, exaggerate and make demeaning comments about their children."[9]

Intergenerational patterns

"Narcissistic parents give rise to narcissistic offspring because [of] their inability to engage emotionally with their children's needs."[10]

In literature

The novel "Loverboy" by the author Victoria Redel is written from the perspective of a mother exhibiting characteristics of extreme narcissistic parenting.[citation needed] The protagonist embarks upon a series of reckless sexual relationships for the sole purpose of conceiving a child who will act as a source of self-enhancement. When her son, Paul, is born, she forbids him from having any contact with or friends in the outside world, and constructs an elaborate fantasy world for him based entirely around herself. When Paul reaches school age and seeks autonomy outside of his mother - thus threatening to cut off her source of narcissistic supply and glorification - she commits a murder-suicide attempt by carbon monoxide poisoning.

See also


  1. Stephen E. Levich, Clone Being (2004) p. 89
  2. David Stafford & Liz Hodgkinson, Codependency (London 1995) p. 41
  3. Salman Akhtar, Good Feeling (London 2009) p. 86
  4. Heinz Kohut, How Does Analysis Cure? (London 1984) p. 183
  5. Joseph Glenmullen, Prozac Backlash (New York 2000) p. 278 and p. 266
  6. 6.0 6.1 Rappoport, Alan, Ph. D.Co-Narcissism: How We Adapt to Narcissis. The Therapist, 2005.
  7. Levich, p. 31 and p. 91
  8. Simon Crompton, All about Me: Loving a Narcissist (London 2007) p. 120
  9. Crompton, p. 120
  10. Crompton, p. 119

Further reading

Academic paper


  • Brown, Nina W. Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-up's Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents (2008)
  • Campbell, Lady Colin Daughter of Narcissus: A Family's Struggle to Survive Their Mother's Narcissistic Personality Disorder (2009)
  • Donaldson-Pressman, S & Pressman, RM The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment (1997)
  • Golomb, Elan Trapped in the Mirror - Adult Children of Narcissists in their Struggle for Self (1995)
  • Hotchkiss, Sandy & Masterson, James F. Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism (2003) - see Chapter 9 - The Narcissistic Parent
  • McBride, Karyl Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers (2009)
  • Miller A The Drama of the Gifted Child, How Narcissistic Parents Form and Deform the Emotional Lives of their Talented Children (1981)
  • Payson, Eleanor The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family (2002) - see Chapter 5

External links

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Types of parent
Articles concerning parents
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