College students think they're so special
Study finds alarming rise in narcissism,
self-centeredness in ‘Generation Me’
by Janet Hamlin / AP
NEW YORK - Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.
“We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”
Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.
The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as “If I ruled the world, it would be a better place,” “I think I am a special person” and “I can live my life any way I want to.”
The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students’ NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.
Narcissism can have benefits, said study co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people “or auditioning on ‘American Idol.”’
The study asserts that narcissists “are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors.”
Twenge, the author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.
The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the “self-esteem movement” that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.
Campbell said the narcissism upsurge seemed so pronounced that he was unsure if there were obvious remedies.
“Permissiveness seems to be a component,” he said. “A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for.”
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