Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dear Narcissist Problems, "Lady Tremaine"


Dear Narcissist Problems,

 

I read your posts every day and the question I want to ask is how prevalent is this behavior in teenagers? Nearly all the behaviors you list I can identify in my step son.... it worries me to death about what kind of adult he will be. He has suffered severe loss in his early life. But this narcissistic behavior is on the increase and to be honest it's not pleasant. Any suggestions or further information would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

“Not another Lady Tremaine

 

Dear “Lady Tremaine”,

      First, I would like to apologize that it took me so long to find your question again!  I’d like to apologize to everyone actually!  There are two things going on here:  One day an automated response started replying to all of your messages stating that I will be with you shortly.  I don’t know if Facebook set this up or what but I don’t get notified that I even have a message anymore and I don’t know how to turn it off!  Second, I am doing this alone.  I’d like to take this moment to say that I am not trying to be rude or ignore your questions so please don’t stop sending them!  I’m currently working through a few hundred and getting to them in the order they came in.  Please be patient!

            Since that is now cleared up I’m going to tackle this really great question!  Generally, I’m of the view that a majority of teenagers are narcissistic to a degree but from your question I am gathering that we are not talking about the typical teenager/step-parent relationship.  Without further information on the situation I would recommend therapy to deal with the severe loss or abandonment issues he may have.  Let’s be honest with each other, I haven’t met many teenagers whose parents would say they are pleasant.  Maybe this is a stereotype but when I think of teenagers, myself in younger years included, I picture self-obsession and fits of rage or acting out.  Maybe we should take a poll but I think it would be abnormal if you said you had a perfect teenager who was always in a great mood, did their chores, homework, and never exerted their individuality or independence.

            However, I’m sure that you didn’t write in because you have no reference on the emotional rollercoaster ride of being the parent of a teenager can be and this behavior goes beyond the average.  What I really wonder is how much of the loss in his younger years is being used to manipulate his position in your household.  Maybe he learned early on that he can play this card and get what he wants so that is what he does.  Does that make him a narcissistic abuser or a hormonal teenager who learned to use his tragedies to manipulate the people around him?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I dug up an article that could help us both understand when teenage narcissism is abnormal.  At any rate, I’ll start by answering your first question about the prevalence of this disorder.  Without going into the entire study there was research done on the prevalence of NPD among adolescent boys, however, it’s dated before the use of cell phones and the internet.  I’ve been searching for a little while no so if anyone can find more recent data please let me know!  The article published in The American Journal of Psychiatry titled “Prevalence and stability of the DSM-III-R personality disorders in a community-based survey of adolescents” conducted research to establish the statistical prevalence of 10 personality disorders specifically found in DSM-III-R axis II criteria.  Of their subjects it was found that “At least one diagnosis of a moderate DSM-III-R personality disorder was received by 31.2% of the subjects (733 in study) at time 3, while 17.2% received a diagnosis of at least one sever disorder at time 3.”(Bernstein, Cohen, Velez, Schwab-Stone, Siever, & Shinsato 1993).  This study was done among years but it found that the highest prevalence was found at the age of 12 in boys and age 13 in girls with the possibility of being diagnosed after that declining after that age. It was observed that among this age group “Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder was the most prevalent moderate disorder diagnosed and narcissistic personality disorder was the most prevalent severe axis II disorder.” (Bernstein, Cohen, Velez, Schwab-Stone, Siever, & Shinsato 1993).  You didn’t mention the exact age of your stepson but here is the breakdown of prevalence: Males age 11-14, 17.4%, Males age 15-17, 6.7% while males age 18-21, 1.0%.  This study was conducted over years and during this study it was noted that if a person was diagnosed at the second time there was a 50% chance of not being diagnosed by the 3rd evaluation.  So with that said the age of your stepson is going to play a big role in his diagnosis and treatment if he is diagnosed.

            Further, in the summer of 2007 there was an article published in the Journal of Child & Family Studies titled “The Predictive Utility of Narcissism among Children and Adolescents: Evidence for a Distinction between Adaptive and Maladaptive Narcissism.  I’ll include the source below so you can pull it up later.  In this article the authors examine narcissistic behaviors in children and adolescence in order to predict future misconduct.  As noted in the beginning of the article “Narcissism is one such personality construct that has recently been found to be associated with conduct problems (Barry, Frick, & Killian, 2003) and aggression in youth (Washburn, McMahon, King, Reinecke, & Silver 2004).  All these authors agree that if given positive parental influence in early years then those who display characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder or maladaptive narcissism are less likely to grow into adults that act on impulses of misconduct.  We can agree that parenting does not come with a hand book so that fact that you are intervening and asking for help shows that you are willing to learn the skills required to help this teenager mature into a successful adult.  This article explains that narcissism and self-esteem go hand in hand in that those with maladaptive behaviors typically have a low self- esteem which is then acted out in aggressive behaviors.

 Moreover, “initial studies in youth suggest that narcissistic characteristics may be associated with problem behaviors, not unlike what has been consistently shown for adults.”(Barry, Frick, Adler, & Grafeman, 2007).  These authors are careful to make the difference between what is considered healthy narcissism and maladaptive narcissism and goes into defining what characteristics we will find in those people based upon the Narcissistic Personality Inventory or NPI scale.  They state that “Specifically, scales labeled Exploitativeness (e.g., “I find it easy to manipulate people.”), Entitlement (e.g., “I insist on getting the respect that is due Me.”), and Exhibitionism (e.g., “I get upset when people don’t notice how I look when I go out in public.”) Have been considered maladaptive based on their associations with poor social adjustment (Emmons, 1984; Raskin & Terry, 1988).” (Barry, Frick, Adler, & Grafeman, 2007).  As opposed to a normal amount of narcissism or adaptive behaviors where the person has a good view of themselves and their position in society like having feelings of being a responsible or being a good decision maker. 

What I find interesting in this article is that the authors acknowledge that there are no studies on parenting styles and the outcome of antisocial personality disorders so there is no conclusion as to if parenting style plays a role in the future behavior problems of a person who has narcissistic personality disorder.  While there aren’t any studies it is suggested that negative or positive parenting practices can either encourage narcissistic behaviors or lessen them.  With this in mind, the authors state that “Given that this issue has not been previously investigated, the association between parenting practices and narcissism was explored in our study along with their potential interaction in predicting delinquent behaviors.” which is great news for us! (Barry, Frick, Adler, & Grafeman, 2007). 

            In this study these authors recruited 98 children ranging from the ages of 9-15 and looked for characteristics associated with manipulation and empathy.  They then added a subgroup of children who had been identified as displaying maladaptive narcissism that resulted in misconduct or behavior issues.  The one thing that bothered me about this study is that the children who were selected because of their bad behavior were done so by parental reporting of the child’s problems.  In other words, it’s self-reporting.  Growing up with a disordered mother I find this disturbing because I was always labeled as a problem and many times this label was placed to cover up parental abuse. I’m not discrediting the research by saying that but only suggesting that we keep this in mind when looking at the numbers and keep an eye out for future research.

 The conclusion made in this research seems to be that the environment may play little role in antisocial behaviors, although, negative parenting can exacerbate the misconduct.  The ultimate conclusion was that children and adolescence who display maladaptive narcissism are more likely to continue this behavior in adulthood regardless of parenting.  Further they state that, “our study, along with other recent studies in this area (Barry et al., 2003; Washburn et al., 2004), suggests that narcissism manifested in certain maladaptive ways can be associated with antisocial and delinquent behavior. This conclusion is made with the understanding that the earlier presence of delinquency is likely a stronger indicator of the likelihood of later delinquency.” (Barry, Frick, Adler, & Grafeman, 2007).  In other words, your fears are founded and you should seek help from a psychologist as soon as you can not only for your step son but also yourself and other family members.  Good luck to you and I hope you find the help that your family needs.

Regards,

Narcissist Problems

 

           

 

Reference

Barry, C. T., Frick, P. J., Adler, K. K., & Grafeman, S. J. (2007). The Predictive Utility of Narcissism among Children and Adolescents: Evidence for a Distinction between Adaptive and Maladaptive Narcissism. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 16(4), 508-521. Doi:10.1007/s10826-006-9102-5

 

Bernstein, D. P., Cohen, P., Velez, C. N., Schwab-Stone, M., Siever, L. J., & Shinsato, L. (1993). Prevalence and stability of the DSM-III-R personality disorders in a community-based survey of adolescents. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 150(8), 1237-1243.

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