Dr. Eddie Brummelman on “Origins of narcissism in children”


In this episode, I speak with Dr. Eddie Brummelman about his article titled “Origins of narcissism in children.” Eddie Brummelman is a postdoctoral researcher in Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam. His research “focuses on the socialization of children’s self-views, which is how social processes shape children’s self-views, and how these processes can be altered to help children flourish.”  If you have any questions or comments, please provide them in the section below, or send me a message at methodologyforpsychology.org/contact. For your convenience, the abstract for the article that we discussed is provided below, along with Dr. Brummelman’s answers to the lighting round. Thank you so much for listening.

Lightning Round Answers

What book would you recommend for listeners of Psychological Research Stories?

Essential Papers on Narcissism

Who are some researchers who have been particularly influential on your approach?

Sander Thomas and Brad Bushman

If you couldn’t be a psychologist, what would you want to be?

Science Journalist

What is one of your favorite aspects of science?

“I love discovery. I love being able to come up with my own ideas and be able to test them using very stringent methods. So I never get bored, but another thing that I like about science it that it is a context in which you can continuously develop yourself. You can identify your weaknesses and strengthen them. You can collaborate with people who are better than you in certain aspects, and you can learn from them. So, discovery and learning.”

What is some advice you could give for new researchers?

“My advice would be to explore many different disciplines within your field and to identify what your passion is. So what kind of questions and topics you are really passionate about, and then think about what the important questions are that still need to be addressed and how can you add to that. So what kind of studies could you do, what kind of measures could you develop to be able to fill those gaps while also satisfying your own curiosity. One other thing is to collaborate as much as you can with people who are stronger than you, are better than you, are at a more advanced point in their careers, so you can use their advice to improve yourself and your papers.”


Narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth, and contribute to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism, however, are not well understood. Here, we report, to our knowledge, the first prospective longitudinal evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. We compared two perspectives: social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation) and psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth). We timed the study in late childhood (ages 7–12), when individual differences in narcissism first emerge. In four 6-mo waves, 565 children and their parents reported child narcissism, child self-esteem, parental overvaluation, and parental warmth. Four-wave cross-lagged panel models were conducted. Results support social learning theory and contradict psychoanalytic theory: Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation, not by lack of parental warmth. Thus, children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them (e.g., “I am superior to others” and “I am entitled to privileges”). Attesting to the specificity of this finding, self-esteem was predicted by parental warmth, not by parental overvaluation. These findings uncover early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism, and may inform interventions to curtail narcissistic development at an early age.


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