Everyone thinks their children are the best. It's part of the biological urge that makes us want to go out and procreate. But a new study that followed families over one and a half years has shown that there's a link between parents who "overvalue" and children who score higher on narcissistic traits.
Or as the Ohio State University press release not-so-tactfully explains: "Children whose parents think they're God's gift to the world do tend to outshine their peers - in narcissism." Ouch.
The research, which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, surveyed 565 children in the Netherlands aged between seven and 11 and their parents four times over an 18 month period. The team found that when parents thought their kids "deserve something extra in life" and are "more special than other children", the children went on to score higher on tests of narcissism.
"Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society," said co-author of the study Brad Bushman from the Ohio State University in the US in the press release. He lead the research alongside Eddie Brummelman from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Bushman explains that most parents weren't out to over-inflate their kids' egos, they simply wanted to help boost their self-esteem. But this research revealed that self-esteem and narcissism actually develop in different ways, and aren't as closely linked as many people believe.
For example, children with high self-esteem reported being happy with themselves and liking the person they are, rather than seeing themselves as more special than others.
"People with high self-esteem think they're as good as others, whereas narcissists think they're better than others," Bushman said in the release.
And while children who grew up with parents that overvalued had high narcissistic traits, they didn't have higher self-esteem. Instead, it was the parents who showed their children emotional warmth who had children with higher self-esteem.
"Overvaluation predicted narcissism, not self-esteem, whereas warmth predicted self-esteem, not narcissism," said Bushman in the release.
The researchers even took into account how narcissistic the parents were, to see whether perhaps the traits was being passed down, but still found that parental over-valuation was linked to narcissistic children. Other recent research has shown that males are more likely to be narcissistic than females - especially if they post a lot of selfies.
Worried that you might be the type of extra-loving parent who's raising a tiny narcissist? Don't worry, you can do the test that the researchers developed below to find out if you think a little more highly of your offspring than the rest of the population. (If you're on a mobile, flip it to the side.) No judgement.