What causes narcissism in teens?

Michele Borba
A growing number of researchers are finding a link between social media websites like Facebook and Myspace and antisocial narcissistic behavior among certain users.

If there is a growing narcissistic streak among teens and young adults, let’s not put all the blame of social networking sites. After all, there are 150 million plus Facebook and Myspace users and not all are narcissists (or so I hope not). A social network is a great place for a teen who feels a bit more entitled to draw attention to himself, self-promote and show the world just how great he is.

But let’s not put all the blame on Facebook for how our kids are turning out. In that regard, I fear we have only ourselves to blame. The more probable causes to the dawn of the self-anointed kid is a parental style that pushes too much entitlement, too many trophies too soon, too much “me-me-me,” too much “center stage” and not enough good ol’ “nos” and focusing on “them.”

Researchers also point out that a celebrity-saturated culture that emphasizes the rich and famous is another culprit along with the breakdown of face-to-face connection, and a society that seems too often to be under-stressing those good old homespun virtues like kindness, cooperation and helpfulness.
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What some refer to as a natural narcissism in teens is actually known developmentally as egocentrism. Teens are in fact egocentric by nature; research reflects that this is related to brain development.

The average teen does have the capacity for perspective taking this is not their natural inclination.

As a result your teen may believe that the whole world is watching her at all times. This is why your teen may be embarrassed by something you say or do. It also explains why she may perceive that tiny blemish on her chin as Mt. Rushmore!

Teens also often believe that bad things only happen to other people. This concept known as the 'illusion of invulnerability' helps explain in part why some teens are prone to high risky behaviors.

Finally teens believe that their experience is unique. They believe that no one has ever felt or thought the way they do...especially their parents. This is why your teen may turn off when you say something like: "I know how you feel," or "I felt the same way when I was your age."  Your teen doesn't believe you were ever his age!

Instead try telling your story or offering your advice by saying something like: "When I was your age..." or "If I were in the same situation I would..." When you avoid telling him what he is thinking and feeling, he may actually stop and listen to what you have to say.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.