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Teen Narcissism May Be Behind Aggression Toward Parents

Teen Narcissism May Be Behind Aggression Toward Parents

A new study shows that narcissism in teens may be an underlying factor in those who physically assault their parents.

According to the findings, teens who have been exposed to violence in the home, experienced a lack of affectionate and positive communication, and/or had an extremely permissive upbringing are more likely to develop narcissistic traits and become aggressive toward their parents.

Until now, there have been few studies and explanations for why children would assault their parents. This is the first study to analyze the factors that can lead to this type of violence.

“In some cases we can observe that element of narcissism: it concerns adolescents who feel that they should have everything that they want, right here and now. They don’t take no for an answer. When their parents try to establish limits, the children react aggressively,” said Dr. Esther Calvete, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Deusto in Spain.

For the study, researchers interviewed 591 adolescents from nine public and eleven private secondary schools in Spain over the course of three years, allowing for analysis of the relationship between narcissism and child-to-parent aggression.

The findings show that exposure to violence during the first year of the study was linked to aggression toward parents during the third year. Similarly, a distant parent-child relationship in the first year of the study was connected to narcissism and an oversized self-image in the teens during the second year, and then aggression toward parents during the last year.

“On occasions adolescents assault their parents because the parents themselves have been violent towards the children or among themselves,” said Calvete.

“Through exposure to family violence, children learn to be violent. Other times, it is the lack of affectionate and positive communication between parents and their children, the lack of quality time that is dedicated to the children, or permissive parenting styles that do not impose limits.”

The researchers say that practices of education and upbringing are key.

“If the parents do not raise their children with a sense of responsibility and respect, it is easy for the children to develop problems of aggressive behavior. If the parents were violent when the children were small, it increases the risk of aggressive behavior in children,” said Calvete.

But the behavior displayed by the parents is not the only driving force. “The temperament of the children is another important component, and some boys and girls are more impulsive and learn violent behavior more easily,” she said.

Overall, these teens have the tendency to feel frustrated and rejected. When this occurs, they usually begin with yelling and insults, and move on to physical aggression.

“For that reason, when a father or mother perceives that that their son or daughter continually disrespects them, threatens them, and scares them, it’s a sign that they must act and ask for help,” said Calvete.

“Teenagers can also steal or break their parents’ belongings,” Calvete said, pointing out that there are no differences between boys and girls. “Although the statistics show that the problem is becoming more prevalent in girls.”

Once aggressive behavior has emerged in adolescents, treatment should be directed toward reducing the narcissistic views they have developed, according to the researchers.

The findings are published in Developmental Psychology.

Source: Plataforma SINC

Violent teenager photo by shutterstock.

Teen Narcissism May Be Behind Aggression Toward Parents

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Teen Narcissism May Be Behind Aggression Toward Parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 19 Dec 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.