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Narcissism Tango

I think we can file this one under WD -- for well, duh!

Study: Gen Y Takes Prize For Narcissism

Has Self-Esteem Effort Backfired?

Combined Wire Services

February 27 2007

No wonder YouTube is so popular.

All the effort to boost children's self-esteem may have backfired and produced a generation of college students who are more narcissistic and self-centered than their Gen-X predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study.

And the Internet, with all its MySpace and YouTube braggadocio, is letting that self-regard blossom even more, said the analysis by five psychologists.

In the study being released today, the authors warn that a rising ego rush could bring personal and social problems for Gen Y. People with an inflated sense of self tend to have less interest in emotionally intimate bonds and can lash out when rejected or insulted.

"That makes me very, very worried," said Jean Twenge, the San Diego State associate professor who is lead author of the report. "I'm concerned we are heading to a society where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships."

Twenge and her colleagues examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I can live my life any way I want to."

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

Twenge stressed that she and her co-authors are not suggesting that more students today have a pathological narcissistic personality disorder that needs psychiatric treatment. Still, traits of narcissism have increased significantly, said Twenge, author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before."

Some of the rise in narcissistic attitudes was probably caused by the self-esteem programs that many elementary schools adopted 20 years ago, the study suggests. It noted that nursery schools began to have children sing songs that proclaim: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."

Those youngsters are now adolescents obsessed with websites, such as MySpace and YouTube that "permit self-promotion far beyond that allowed by traditional media," the report said.

Other trends in American culture such as permissive parenting, increased materialism and the fascination with celebrities and reality TV shows may also heighten self-regard, said study co-author W. Keith Campbell, psychology professor at the University of Georgia. "It's part of a whole cultural system," he said.

Although some analysts say today's young people show an increased commitment to volunteer work, Twenge say that may simply reflect high school requirements and the pressure of college admissions.

The new report follows a study released by UCLA last month which found that nearly three-quarters of the freshmen it surveyed thought it was important to be "very well-off financially." That compared with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.

Compiled from Los Angeles Times and Associated Press reports.

See also: Study: College Students More Narcissistic


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 27th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
Ecccccch! You have no idea how much we ridicule every attempt at feel-good, raise-your-child's-self-esteem dreck that comes in from the kids' schools.

Although I think much of this problem is originally generated by crappy, lazy parenting, some of the blame has to be squarely on the young adults who choose those values.
Feb. 27th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
...some of the blame has to be squarely on the young adults who choose those values.

I wasn't aware of it at the time -- awareness came slowly in my 18th year -- but as I was growing up in Glastonbury and attending the Glastonbury public schools I was being fed two very conflicting sets of values. My parents and grandparents were teaching and living the traditional Yankee values of thrift, hard work, humility and charity. The schools were teaching me that Glastonbury kids were superior, corner-office material. They taught materialism, self-promotion, and entitlement.

Late in my senior year a Bad Thing happened to me. What it was is not relevant here. What is relevant is that in coping with it I found solace in honest physical work -- for the first time. My eyes were opened. I realized that I had these warring values, and I made a conscious choice to reject what I had been taught for thirteen years in the schools. I embraced the culture my family had given me. There have been many refinements in my outlook over time, but you can call me a Connecticut Yankee and not be far off.

With this experience, I am loath to be too hard on today's teenagers for their values. I guess I view them more as victims of a conspiracy by their parents and their teachers to deny them a proper moral foundation: they were made what they are, they did not choose it. Much as their attitude of self-centered infallibility drives me nuts, the proper targets for our censure are the adults who saturated them with this you're unique and special horse manure. The kids need good examples.
Feb. 28th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
I'm a huge proponent that at some point, you are forbidden from pointing to your parents and must stand on your own values and choices. Sometimes (as you described) we have that thrust upon us. Like the Bad Thing with you. (Which I'm sorry for, no matter what it is). Even as self-centered as some people are, you look at those big issues (like racism, equal rights, becoming a Republican - just kidding!) and we each have to make choices about WHO we are going to be and HOW we are going to treat others in the world.

This generation is no worse than any other - WE (adults) might thing so (doesn't every preceding generation think the next one is going down the toilet?!), but every generation is a "victim" of the one that raised us. We set ourselves apart from that legacy when we choose to change.

/weird ranty thing.
Feb. 28th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
sorry - that was me up there.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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