Here’s How a Narcissist’s Personality Changes with Age
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Here’s How a Narcissist’s Personality Changes with Age

Narcissistic personality disorder, a mental health condition in which a person’s sense of importance is abnormally high, is surprisingly common—as many as 5 percent of the population may have it. And now, thanks to a new study, we know how people diagnosed with the condition change over time.

Scientists have found that people become less narcissistic as they age, and this phenomenon declines as they move from childhood to late adulthood.


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However, the differences between individuals remain the same over time. In other words, people who are more narcissistic than their peers as children tend to remain so as adults.

“These findings have important implications, given that high levels of narcissism affect people’s lives in many ways – both the lives of the narcissistic individuals themselves and, perhaps even more so, the lives of their families and friends,” said lead author Prof. Ulrich Orth of the University of Bern.

Publishing results in a journal Psychological BulletinOrth and his team analyzed data from 51 studies, all of which measured how participants’ levels of narcissism changed over time.

A total of 37,247 people aged 8 to 77 participated in the study, with a nearly equal gender distribution (52 percent women and 48 percent men).

Each study identified which of the three types of narcissism it tracked: agentic, antagonistic, and neurotic. Agentic narcissism involves feelings of grandiosity, superiority, and a need for admiration. Antagonistic narcissism involves arrogance and a lack of empathy, while neurotic narcissism is characterized by hypersensitivity and emotional dysregulation.

The researchers found that all three types declined from childhood to old age. The decline was small for agentic narcissism, while it was more moderate for antagonistic and neurotic narcissism.

Orth found that the fact that people’s narcissism does not change significantly compared to their peers “holds true even over very long periods of time, suggesting that narcissism is a stable personality trait.”

However, one limitation of the study was that most of the research was conducted in the US and Western Europe. The team hopes to further investigate narcissism in a wider range of countries to expand the findings.

While the team found a decline in narcissism with age, the reasons for this are still unclear. “One theory suggests that the social roles we take on in adulthood, such as partner, parent, employee, etc., lead to the development of more mature personality traits, including lower levels of narcissism,” Orth said.


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