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Do Narcissists Love Their Children? What the Research Shows

David Wilson
December 28, 2023

A painful question asked by most abused kids is, “Do our narcissistic mother or father/both love us or not?” “Did they ever feel those actual feelings of unconditional affection?” Or, “Were our parents ever able to provide genuine parental compassion and regard towards us?”

Are you in the same predicament of making sense of your parent's behavior and unsure if that was real love? If that's the case, you might resonate with the below patterns you have experienced over the years.

It will be comforting to know (at least) that narcissistic parental behavior runs way beyond extracurricular shaming and general bragging. Your narcissistic parent doesn't only show you off but uses your existence on a much deeper and darker level.

So, let's dig in further to find the reality behind this unfortunate question.

What is a Narcissistic Parent?

With the rise of social awareness, many often confuse their strict parents with narcissistic ones. Though a narcissist can be harsh in many areas, there is still a massive gap between the two.

Narcissistic parents usually have a difficult time allowing their children to have their needs met and even become their own person. 

According to the research by Smith College, kids who are raised by narcissistic parents mostly suffer emotionally without insight into a link between these hardships and their upbringing.

Now that you know what a narcissistic parent is, let’s shed light on some of the qualities that you'd find in every narcissistic parent to evaluate if they love their children or not.

4 Common Traits of a Narcissistic Parent

1. Give Extra Attention During Kid's Success

Every parent loves it when their child achieves something. They love to tell people and sometimes brag about their success. It is a natural inclination of every parent.

The difference here is that narcissistic parents will boast about their kid's success but, other than that, show no interest in their kids and their lives.

For them, their own emotional needs are everything. And when it comes to the kids, they won't even consider it.

2. Lash Out When Kids Do Something Wrong

Our parents are here to correct us and show us that every wrong action has a similar consequence. They set expectations and might get disappointed when not met by us. It is a normal parental behavior.

Now, when it comes to narcissistic parents, they will never give you the leverage to make a mistake. Every single mistake will put you on edge with them. Screaming and shaming are constant behaviors whenever a kid doesn't fulfill what "they" imagined.

3. Have No Boundaries and Expect Emotional Care

A narcissistic parent has no boundaries when it comes to their kids. They don't even try to take them as separate individuals. For them, their kids are their property.

Simultaneously, they love to dump their emotional baggage on their kids, expecting them to give them the care. After all, it is them who are providing them with everything- a classic narcissistic behavior.

4. They Love Playing Favourites

It is a never-ending game that leads to generational trauma and rivalry between families. And narcissistic parents live on that! Even Ricky Finzi-Dottan explains all the potential side effects in his book “The Effects of Perceived Parental Favoritism & Narcissism, which shows how they love playing favorites.”

In a nutshell, they would choose their "obedient" as a golden child, and the other with a distinct personality will be labeled a disappointment, a spare goat for the rest of their lives.

Does a Narcissistic Parent Love His Kids?

Now comes the most awaited question of whether they love their kids. Or is it just what they think they do?

On the front, you'll see every parent loves their kid—almost every. But in reality, we'll see that some parents only love their kids for the show. It is that sad truth no child needs to know, but here we are.

The following reasons confirm why a narcissistic parent does not genuinely love their kid:

Show Public Affection for Praise

Research on narcissistic parents depicts that narcissists thrive on public approval and praise. They love it when people admire them in any way. So what can be better than getting admiration from the most cherished relationship: parent and child?

Note that this behavior is very harmful to a kid's psyche. They start questioning why their parent shows such care now and not in private. It leads them to trauma bond with their parents, filling in more of the parent's pride.

Loving Toddler and Pre-Adolescence Stage More

Toddlers and pre-adolescents depend entirely on their parents. They comply and, for the most part, do whatever is asked of them. For them, their parents are heroes, and they want to be just like them.

Now, how can a narcissist not love this grandeur they are receiving? On top of that, their kids would do exactly what they want!

However, an adult child is a bit different. He prefers individuality, and a narcissist is never going to accept that.

They Use You As Their Pawn

One of the most mentally and emotionally detrimental tactics a narcissistic parent uses is making you their pawn. For them, their child is nothing but their object or a necessity.

Let me tell you, they will never feel any shame in using you for their benefit. From bringing you between parental fights to dumping their emotional baggage on you, they are purely inconsiderate of your mental health. No regard for feelings or mental health!

Just as distressing as this is, it is still the truth. All these reasons clearly show that a narcissist will only love on a condition, and remember, true parental love is always unconditional.

Impact On Their Personality And Mental Health

Low self-esteem and depression are some of the most common problems in the kids of narcissistic parents. Without any doubt, there are detrimental health outcomes when children have to deal with narcissistic parents, and a narcissistic parent even instills insecurity and confidence issues in the child.

Conversely, the golden child will likely end up with the same behavioral patterns as his parents, threatening upcoming generations.

Conclusion

To all the people who suffered from a narcissistic parent, there is still hope. You can save yourself and your kids with many different therapies available now.

You are worthy and a unique human being. It is hard to get away from toxic parents, but trust me, it is for the best!

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David Wilson

David Wilson is a skilled clinical psychologist dedicated to enhancing lives through healing and growth. Specializing in empowering clients to overcome challenges, he offers personalized therapy that fosters emotional well-being and resilience. With a compassionate approach, David guides individuals on their journey to discover self-awareness, develop coping strategies, and find lasting happiness. Trusted and revered, he is committed to making a positive impact and nurturing positive change in every life he touches.

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