Signs, Effects, and Healing: Narcissistic Parents

Signs, Effects, and Healing: Narcissistic Parents


When we’re young, parents shape our entire world. We learn from them, look up to them, are loved by them and, at times, may feel hurt by them.  As a child, it’s impossible to see parents for who they really are – normal people who have fears, anxieties and sometimes, mental health issues. They struggle to provide the best life they can for their children, but not all parents are emotionally able to provide the love and support children need for healthy development. This is true in the case of narcissistic parents.


What is a narcissist?

A narcissist is a person who has a mental disorder called a narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist has an excessive admiration of themselves and has a “the world revolves around me,” mentality. Narcissists are typically selfish, believe they are always “right,” and lack empathy for others. Narcissists often flaunt their appearance, possessions or lifestyle to establish their superiority. Having a close relationship with a narcissist can be emotionally draining as narcissists refuse to take blame for anything, don’t listen to other’s opinions and emotionally manipulate those around them. It’s not always obvious if a person is a narcissist. Often, narcissists will project a boisterous, charming version of themselves to the outside world, while their real self will come out at home.


Signs of a narcissistic parent:

Being raised by a narcissistic parent can negatively affect one’s mental health and sense of self-worth. Preston Ni, M.S.B.A, outlines the top 10 signs of a narcissistic parent in a Psychology Today article. Below is a summary of those signs. See the article for the full descriptions.


  1. The parent uses or lives through their children.
  2. The parent will marginalize/put down their children due to their own jealousy or perceived threat from the child.
  3. The parent feels and acts superior. They are conceited with an inflated self-image. They use family members and friends as tools for personal gain.
  4. The parent flaunts a superficial image of themselves in public to show how special/superior they are. They will flaunt their appearance, possessions, accomplishments and/or a trophy spouse or child.
  5. The parent is manipulative, using guilt trips, blame, shame, rewards and punishments, negative comparisons and unreasonable pressure to get children to do what they want.
  6. The parent is inflexible and touchy. Some narcissistic parents have high standards for their children’s behavior and will explode if small details are not exactly to their liking.
  7. The parent lacks empathy. In this situation, children are likely to respond by fighting against the parent, becoming detached and distant from the parent, or trying to meet the parent’s high standards by pretending to be more than they are. Children may become narcissistic as well.
  8. The parent is dependant/codependent on their children. Once children are old enough to support the parent, the narcissist parent demands support emotionally, physically or financially.
  9. The parent is jealous and possessive. They react negatively to children’s growing independence and maturity. They see a romantic partner as a threat, and criticize that person.
  10. The parent is neglectful and focuses on his or her personal actives, hobbies, career and/or social circle because those things are of more interest than raising their children.


Effects of a narcissistic parent:

Child who were raised by a narcissist may suffer the negative effects into their adult lives. They may become narcissists themselves, seek romantic relationships with narcissists or be too damaged to sustain any relationship at all. They may be unable to get out from under the thumb of the narcissist, and may stay in a codependent, dysfunctional relationship with the parent for life.


Craig Malkin, Ph. D. writes in Psychology Today about the effects narcissistic parenting can have on offspring. Below is a summary of those effects. See the article for the full descriptions.

  1. Chronic self-blame: Growing up, children often receive and internalize copious amounts of blame from the narcissistic parent. In adult life they will blame themselves for setbacks in their career and relationships.
  2. Echoism: Children may never have developed a voice of their own in childhood and will often seek out a narcissistic partner to fill their need for direction.
  3. Insecure attachment: Children grow up to be either anxious and over-attached in adult relationships or distant and disconnected.
  4. Need-Panic: Children learn to suppress and disregard their own needs while growing up. In adult life they will ignore their needs until a crisis arrives, then they will panic and become incessantly needy.
  5. Fierce independence: Naturally adventurous children of a narcissistic parent will grow up to refuse emotional intimacy, while naturally sensitive children will probably become compulsive caregivers.
  6. The parentified child: Parentified children are always focused on the needs of their demanding parent, and in adult life they will focus on fulfilling their partner’s needs, while being afraid or hateful of their own needs.
  7. Narcissism: Naturally stubborn children may try to compete with the parent, and grow to be narcissists themselves.
  8. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): If the narcissistic parent was abusive, children can develop PTSD and carry it into adulthood.


What you can do:

So what can you do to recover from the effects of narcissistic parenting? Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W advises in a Psychology Today article that you should learn as much as possible about your parent’s type of narcissism, re-evaluate your relationship with the parent and turn your focus toward taking care of yourself. Resnick also advises that you, “Grieve the loss, not only of the relationship you thought you had with the parent, but also of the relationship with yourself that you neglected. The good news is, you can repair the relationship with yourself.”


Accept that you cannot change a narcissists’ traits, but you can change how they affect you. Don’t let the narcissist diminish your self-worth or manipulate you anymore than they already have. Keep your expectations of a future relationship realistic. The parent will always be self-centered, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to be compliant or confrontational, whether you want to stay involved in their life or maintain your distance. If you stay involved, you may have to set firm, clear boundaries with the narcissist, who is used to doing what they want, whenever they want.


No matter what type of relationship you had or have with a narcissist, consider talking to a therapist. Therapy can help you come to terms with any traumas in your childhood and long lasting effects the relationship with a narcissist had on you. Therapy can help you heal, move forward and re-establish your confidence.


Reach out to us at Family and Child Development if you would like to talk about your relationship with someone you believe to be a narcissist.