Can Narcissism Be Identified in Children?


A grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a persistent desire for admiration and attention are characteristics of the personality trait known as narcissism. While narcissism is typically associated with adults, there is growing interest in understanding whether it can be identified in children. This article explores the concept of narcissism in children, the challenges in identifying it, and the potential implications for their development.

Understanding Narcissism in Children:

Identifying narcissism in children is a complex and sensitive matter. To begin, it’s crucial to differentiate between normal developmental behavior and narcissistic traits. Children naturally go through stages where they display self-centeredness or seek attention. This egocentric behavior is a part of growing up and learning to navigate social interactions.

However, in some cases, these traits can become more pronounced and persistent, raising concerns about narcissistic tendencies. While there is no definitive test to diagnose narcissism in children, several signs and behaviors may indicate a heightened level of self-centeredness. These signs include:

1. Excessive Need for Attention:

Children with narcissistic tendencies may demand constant attention from their caregivers and peers. They often expect special treatment and may become upset if they don’t receive it.

2. Lack of Empathy:

An essential quality that enables people to comprehend and share the emotions of others is empathy. Children with narcissistic traits may struggle to empathize with others’ emotions and needs.

3. Sense of Entitlement:

They may exhibit a strong sense of entitlement, believing they deserve privileges and special treatment without regard for the feelings or needs of others.

4. Exploitative Behavior:

Some children with narcissistic tendencies might manipulate others to get what they want. They may use their charm or manipulation to achieve their goals, even at the expense of others.

5. Fragile Self-Esteem:

Paradoxically, these children may have fragile self-esteem and react strongly to criticism or any indication that they are not the center of attention.

Challenges in Identifying Narcissism in Children:

Identifying narcissism in children is challenging for several reasons:

1. Developmental Changes:

Children go through various developmental stages, and some narcissistic traits may be part of a normal developmental process. Distinguishing between age-appropriate behavior and narcissistic tendencies can be difficult.

2. Co-Occurrence with Other Disorders:

Narcissistic traits in children often co-occur with other mental health disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). These comorbidities can complicate the assessment.

3. Influence of Environment:

Family dynamics and the child’s environment play a significant role in behavior. A child’s narcissistic tendencies may be influenced by the way they are raised, making it challenging to determine whether it’s a personality trait or a learned behavior.

4. Stigma and Labeling:

Labeling a child as narcissistic can have long-term consequences. It’s essential to approach the subject with sensitivity and consider the potential impact on the child’s self-esteem.

Potential Implications for Development:

Identifying narcissistic tendencies in children is not about labeling them but understanding their behavior and providing appropriate support. If these tendencies persist and are left unaddressed, they may have long-term consequences. Some potential implications for a child’s development include:

1. Difficulty in Building Relationships:

Children with narcissistic tendencies may struggle to form healthy, reciprocal relationships. They may have difficulty maintaining friendships and may experience loneliness and social isolation.

2. Academic and Behavioral Challenges:

Narcissistic children may exhibit disruptive behavior in school and have difficulty following rules or accepting authority. This can lead to academic challenges and disciplinary issues.

3. Future Relationship Patterns:

Narcissistic traits in childhood can continue into adulthood if not addressed. They may affect the child’s ability to form stable and loving relationships, both personally and professionally.

4. Emotional Well-Being:

A persistent sense of entitlement and lack of empathy can lead to problems with emotional regulation, increased stress, and poor emotional well-being.


Identifying narcissism in children is a complex endeavor, and it’s essential to approach it with caution and sensitivity. Rather than labeling a child, it’s more constructive to recognize the signs of narcissistic tendencies and consider potential interventions or therapeutic approaches to support healthy development. Understanding the factors that contribute to these behaviors and addressing them early can help children navigate their social world more successfully and grow into emotionally healthy adults.


What causes narcissism in children?

Narcissism in children can be influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and parenting factors. It’s a complex trait with no single cause.

Can narcissism in children be treated?

With early intervention and the right therapeutic approaches, children with narcissistic tendencies can learn healthier ways to relate to others and develop more empathy and self-awareness.

Should parents be concerned if their child shows some narcissistic traits?

Not necessarily. Many children display narcissistic tendencies at various stages of development. It’s essential to consider the severity and persistence of these traits and consult with a mental health professional if concerns arise.

How can parents support a child with narcissistic tendencies?

Parents can support their children by promoting empathy, setting boundaries, and encouraging age-appropriate social interactions. Seeking guidance from a child psychologist or therapist may also be beneficial.

Is narcissism in children a lifelong trait?

Not necessarily. With early intervention and the right support, children with narcissistic traits can learn to manage and reduce these tendencies as they grow and develop emotionally.