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Narcissistic Traits Tend to Decline With Age

A new study from Michigan State University (MSU) suggests that narcissistic traits may decline with age.

“There’s a narrative in our culture that generations are getting more and more narcissistic, but no one has ever looked at it throughout generations or how it varies with age at the same time,” said Dr. William Chopik, associate professor of psychology at MSU and lead author.

The researchers assessed a sample of nearly 750 people to see how narcissism changed from age 13 to 70. They found that qualities associated with narcissism — being full of yourself, overly sensitive to criticism and imposing your opinion on others — decline over time and with age. Some character traits like having high aspirations for yourself increased with age.

“There are things that happen in life that can shake people a little bit and force them to adapt their narcissistic qualities,” Chopik said. “As you age, you form new relationships, have new experiences, start a family and so on. All of these factors make someone realize that it’s not ‘all about them.’ And, the older you get, the more you think about the world that you may leave behind.”

In fact, the greatest impetus for declining narcissism, Chopik said, was landing a first job.

“One thing about narcissists is that they’re not open to criticism. When life happens and you’re forced to accept feedback, break up with someone or have tragedy strike, you might need to adjust to understanding that you’re not as awesome as you once thought,” Chopik said.

“There’s a sense in which narcissists start to realize that being the way they are isn’t smart if they want to have friends or meaningful relationships.”

Chopik found that the fastest-changing age group was young adults. He also found that, contrary to popular belief, changes in the levels of narcissism are long-term, and they don’t stop at any certain age or stage in life.

“One of the most surprising findings was that also contrary to what many people think, individuals who were born earlier in the century started off with higher levels of hypersensitivity, or the type of narcissism where people are full of themselves, as well as willfulness, which is the tendency to impose opinions on others,” Chopik said.

“There isn’t much data on older generations, but now that Baby Boomers are aging into that phase of life, it’s a huge part of the population that we need to be looking at.”

Based on these findings, the researchers hope that the public gains a greater understanding about the different types of narcissism as well as new insight to the understudied older populations. Also, if you’re worried that someone is truly a narcissist, there’s hope they will change for the better as they get older, Chopik added.

The study is published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Source: Michigan State University

Narcissistic Traits Tend to Decline With Age

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. (2019). Narcissistic Traits Tend to Decline With Age. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Dec 2019 (Originally: 11 Dec 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Dec 2019
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