Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a complex psychological condition characterized by a consistent pattern of an extremely elevated sense of self, a high need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. While there are many potential causes of NPD, including genetic, biological, and environmental factors, emotional and psychological causes can also play a significant role in the development of this disorder. The psychological and emotional causes of narcissism are as follows:
  • Rejection from Caregivers

To be seen is a fundamental need for every child; it contributes towards building a healthy sense of self. It also helps them feel safe and like they belong in their environment. When children receive acknowledgement from their parents, they feel accepted. However, when the parent is neglectful, the child feels rejected. When children are not seen for who they are, they might create a false sense of self to protect themselves from overwhelming feelings of rejection. This may lead to the development of narcissistic traits.
  • Learning by Observation

There is some evidence in research to suggest that narcissistic traits can be learned from primary caregivers. When a parent is narcissistic, they fail to model healthy behaviors for their children, causing their children to adopt similar traits. It can also be learned from other influential family members.
  • Insecure Attachment Styles

The relationship between attachment and narcissism is complex, according to researchers, but it is believed that narcissism likely emerges when a child shares an insecure attachment with its caregivers.
  • Inconsistent Parental Behavior

When parents are inconsistent in providing the child with acknowledgement and emotional support, it can be a confusing experience. This unpredictability can result in a compulsive need for attention and approval. This might cause children to develop a false sense of self to cope with the unpredictability.
  • Overprotective Parenting

When a parent is overprotective, it limits the child’s ability to learn from their experiences. This may also limit the child’s ability to regulate their emotions. The inability to cope with and take responsibility for emotions can be an indicator of narcissism. Overprotection from parents may also give rise to feelings of entitlement, making them susceptible to narcissistic traits. This theory is supported by a 2020 study. Overprotection from either parent was found to be associated with elevated narcissism in the study.
  • Parental Overvaluation

Overvaluation occurs when a parent believes that their child is unique or superior to others. When a child grows up in such an environment, he or she is more likely to develop an elevated sense of self, which may contribute to narcissism. The previously mentioned 2020 study validates this. The study discovered that parental overvaluation was strongly linked to narcissism.
  • Leniency in Parenting

When a parent is overly lenient or permissive, the child has a great deal of freedom. It may limit the child’s ability to understand boundaries and engage in discipline, contributing to a sense of entitlement and disregard for other people’s rules and boundaries.
  • Trauma

Research indicates that instances of abuse and traumatic experiences, especially during a child’s formative years, can contribute to the development of narcissistic personality disorder. Negative early life experiences such as abuse, abandonment, and maltreatment can also serve as potential risk factors.  


Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of the rare personality disorders that can be hard to deal with for both sufferers and family members. If you know someone who is going through NPD, it is advisable to seek help at the earliest. NPD can also affect the mental health of family and friends of the suffering individual. Seeking help can help them cope with the experience in better ways.


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Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin