Are you narcissistic? Is this part of the only-child syndrome?

by on March 12, 2015

in Bernice's Posts

Returning to the theme in a previous post on narcissism, I thought it would be useful to explore this further, not just about parents of only-child adults, but ourselves as only-children. I have to start by saying I am not a lover of diagnostic titles that pathologies human behaviour. All behaviour is on a spectrum and it is too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you either have a particular diagnosis or you don’t i.e. you are narcissistic or you are not. However it is much truer to ask: Do we all have narcissistic tendencies? and if so, Do only-children have them more than most? As narcissism appears to be at the heart of the negative stereotype of the only child, and part of the so-called ‘only-child syndrome’ I think it is a useful idea to explore.

Lets start by looking at what is seen to be narcissistic behaviour.

A person who thinks that their needs, wants, beliefs, and perspectives are more important than those of others.

  • A person who consistently turns conversations back to themselves and makes comments about how the subject relates to them.
  • A person who makes friends with people for what they can do for them – how they can add value to their life – thus seeing other people as there to meet their needs.
  • A person who assumes that their suffering is more painful than the suffering of others.
  • A person who assumes that their situation/emergency requires greater attention and urgency than that of others.
  • A person who devalues other people’s input, contributions, or worth because they don’t consider they have the same status, or believe they have a higher status themselves.
  • A person who discounts other people’s points of view by refusing to acknowledge their own wrongdoings, and will not apologise when it’s necessary to do so.
  • A person who misrepresent themselves by creating a false persona that is not congruent with how they actually are in the world.

Well I imagine most of us can say we have been guilty of some of these behaviours at some time in our lives. However that is normal. What is not, is the denial of these tendencies and an expectation that everyone else is wrong and only you hold the truth. I have argued before that we all have a need to be self-centred to a degree, in order to survive and also to be in touch with our own authentic self/ves. So it seems to me, if you always hold that your view is more significant than others, always see the problem in the other person and find it hard to negotiate difference, then you probably do need to look at your relationships with others.

And what about the adult only-child?

I do think the lack of sibling social engagement and comparison, can have a detrimental effect on the development of a balanced personality. Certainly there are inherent possibilities for the only-child to develop narcissistic tendencies, simply because they are very often the centre of attention in the household.

So you may want to monitor your behaviour to see if you have any of these tendencies!!

  • Do you catch yourself having self-important thoughts?
  • Do you at times see your self at the centre of the universe?
  • Do you think your needs are more important?
  • Can you see people for who they really are, rather than what you would like then to be?
  • Can you be attuned to other people rather than to your own needs and expectations?
  • Can you let others talk without bringing them around to your agenda?
  • Are you able to value other perspectives, even though you may not agree with them?
  • Are you able to take responsibility for hurting others or for being wrong?
  • Are you able to apologies if you have hurt someone even if it was not intended?

If you can say none of this relates you, I suspect you are not being entirely truthful!

However, lets face it, a true narcissist will not be able to acknowledge any of this, so as long as you can – you do not fall into the category!

Well I would be interested to have some responses!


  • Robert

    I would have to say, as an only son, some of these descriptions suit my father very well. In particular, “A person who discounts other people’s points of view by refusing to acknowledge their own wrongdoings, and will not apologize when it’s necessary to do so.” He has never legitimately apologized for how he has hurt his own son and his wife and, now that we are taking a break from them and creating some distance, he still cannot bring himself to bring about reconciliation that is not on his terms. He has two beautiful little grandchildren, but would rather ‘win’ than rebuild relationships. I lose respect for him every day. This is all so very sad.

Previous post:

Next post: