People Become Less Narcissistic With Age, Says Study

Narcissism decreases with age, but individuals who are more narcissistic than their peers as children remain that way as adults, according to a new study.

Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by exaggerated sense of self-importance, a strong need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. It is different from the condition called narcissistic personality disorder, which is more severe and problematic.

High levels of narcissism impact the lives of narcissistic individuals themselves and people around them.


A new study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin looked at data from 51 longitudinal studies measuring how the levels of narcissism change as people age from childhood through older adulthood.

The studies comprised 37,247 participants aged between 8 to 77. Some of the studies followed participants for decades.

The researchers coded whether each study analyzed one or more of three different types of narcissism: agentic, antagonistic, and neurotic.

  • Agentic narcissism involves feelings of grandiosity or superiority and a strong need for admiration.
  • Antagonistic narcissism is defined by arrogance, entitlement, callousness, and low empathy.
  • Neurotic narcissism includes emotional dysregulation and hypersensitivity.

All types of narcissism decreased from childhood through old age. The decline in agentic narcissism was small, while the decreases in antagonistic and neurotic narcissism were moderate.

However, participants' narcissism relative to that of their peers did not change significantly over time. In other words, people who were more narcissistic than average as children remained more narcissistic than average as adults.

The findings show that narcissism is a stable personality trait, authors say. However, it is unclear why it declines with age.

"One theory suggests that the social roles we take on in adulthood, for example, as a partner, a parent, an employee, and so on, lead to the development of more mature personality characteristics, including lower levels of narcissism," said lead author Ulrich Orth, Ph.D., of the University of Bern in Switzerland.


Dealing with a narcissist

While many people may have narcissistic traits, that is not the same as having narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which affects between 0.5% and 5% of people in the United States.

These traits constitute NPD only when they are inflexible, maladaptive, and persisting, as well as causing significant functional impairment, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

People with NPD tend to have relationship difficulties, as they experience problems related to self-preoccupation, need for admiration, and insensitivity to others.

Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders often go together with narcissism. People with NPD are also at a higher risk for legal and work problems.

When dealing with a person with NPD, it is important to understand that you cannot change them, according to the Cleveland Clinic experts. When these individuals try to antagonize or draw a reaction, stay calm and don't take things personally. Don't respond the same way.

Set boundaries and stick to them — communicate what you're willing and unwilling to do. Protect your own health and well-being because people with NPD may try to gaslight you and lash out, either verbally or physically.

If you have a loved one with NPD, it is important to take care of your own mental health — consider seeing a mental health professional.


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.