How Narcissists Are Made

According to Mayo Clinic, “Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school, or financial affairs. People with a narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.”

Narcissism and narcissistic personality styles largely reflect developmental issues. These are issues that developed through childhood. The narcissistic personality that emerges during adulthood largely reflects what happened to the person as they came up through childhood into adolescence. Our personalities begin to develop from the day that we were born until our early/mid-twenties. 

In today’s article, I will shed light on how narcissists are made.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for educational purposes only. Do not use information in this or any other article to self-diagnose or diagnose other people. If you feel that you or someone close to you may possess some of the characteristics mentioned in this or any other article on our blog and need help then please, consult a licensed mental health professional. This article is not a substitute for professional advice, but for general guidance.

Narcissistic personality styles are suggested to be a manifestation of what happens to a personality after being exposed to or adverse childhood experiences and maybe a manifestation of post-traumatic symptomatology. Some of the patterns that observed are observed in narcissism are consistent with some of the patterns in all kinds of post-traumatic presentations. For example, after trauma, people may experience things like the restricted expression of emotion, chronic perception of threat, and even impulsivity. Narcissism can also reflect an attachment disruption. 

Secure attachments are created by early attachments; early relationships with consistent and available caregivers who give the child a sense of safety within themselves and with the people who love them and who foster important skills like self-regulation.

Narcissism is not associated with a secure attachment style but rather with what is termed as anxious and avoidant attachment styles. These result in the person never feeling safe in close relationships. There’s always a relative incapacity for deep and sustained closeness and intimacy. 

This is tough since people with narcissistic personality styles aren’t always seen as having a history of trauma or attachment issues. Furthermore, people with those patterns in their upbringing rarely develop narcissistic personality traits. Moreover, it can be difficult to set boundaries or walk away from someone who has had this history because knowing someone has had this kind of difficult history as a child can cause cognitive dissonance, justifications, rationalizations, and a sense of being stuck for someone in a narcissistic relationship.

Then there is the issue of temperament. 

Simply put, temperament is the biological part of personality. Temperament is actually believed to be inherited and can explain why, even from the very beginning of our lives, or an infant’s life or person’s life, some infants are more difficult to soothe and some soothe so easily and into childhood, while some children may simply just be more difficult, more behaviourally, agitated more attention-seeking. Temperament can make things tough in some circumstances. 

Concerning a child with a tough temperament – As their children grow older, their fathers may become increasingly frustrated with them. Teachers may not be fond of them. Adults may have a harder time with them than youngsters. What does this imply? Because of their tough temperament, the youngster may have a somewhat invalidating experience with the world.

On the other side, children who have easy, resilient temperaments have an easier go of it. They may be the preferred child because the parent perceives themselves to be more confident. They may simply have a less difficult time navigating the world. As a result, they can more go with the flow. 

A subgroup of adult narcissus likely had challenging or sensitive temperaments as children, and temperament may be part of the reason why children are variably impacted by their early experiences. They also have bad childhood experiences or other difficult childhood experiences, as well as things like disengaged parents, and these problematic kids are more likely to have disengaged parents because the child was more problematic, causing the parent to pull away or become frustrated.

The combination of temperament and invalidation can also raise the vulnerability to narcissistic personality styles. 

When we think about how the narcissistic personality style emerges, there are also other Developmental Pathways at play. Some people have described the development of narcissism as being caused by a child’s simultaneous over and under indulgence. These are youngsters who have been spoilt with the possibility of receiving things or experiences, but whose emotional world remains severely deprived. Material requirements are met for children who are treated in an overly indulgent manner, but they are not taught how to be comfortable or have their emotions fostered. They may even be chastised for having emotions in some situations, and they miss out on one of the most essential lessons we are supposed to learn in childhood: self-regulation, or the ability to manage moods and emotions.

A small percentage of narcissists may have grown up with a narcissistic parent or parents. As a result, many aspects of narcissism, such as entitlement, rage, and other dysregulated displays of emotion, arrogance, and superficiality, can all be learned through a process known as modeling. The child does what he or she sees. When a child sees something, he or she is likely to repeat it, especially if the child has seen it before. When a child witnesses enough of this, it becomes normalized and may be reflected in adult conduct.

In adulthood, we see this manifest as the narcissist failing to recognize the difference between themselves and others, failing to fully comprehend how they affect others, or simply failing to comprehend their inner world. There are no guaranteed single Pathways, which is where temperament and all the other variables come into play. There is no such thing as flawless science. That is a part of the struggle.


By Mayo Clinic Staff (November 18, 2017). Narcissistic personality disorder. June 2, 2021, from

Doctor Ramani (January 14, 2021). How narcissists are made. June 2, 2021, from

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