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More N's, According to New Study
February 27, 2007
6:59 pm
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gracenotes
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Study: College students more narcissistic By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
Tue Feb 27, 12:32 AM ET

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 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.'"

"Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said.

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.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques" in preschool: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."

"Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism," Twenge said. "By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube."

Some analysts have commended today's young people for increased commitment to volunteer work. But Twenge viewed even this phenomenon skeptically, noting that many high schools require community service and many youths feel pressure to list such endeavors on college applications.

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."

The new report follows a study released by UCLA last month which found that nearly three-quarters of the freshmen it surveyed thought it was important to be "very well-off financially." That compared with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.

Yet students, while acknowledging some legitimacy to such findings, don't necessarily accept negative generalizations about their generation.

Hanady Kader, a University of Washington senior, said she worked unpaid last summer helping resettle refugees and considers many of her peers to be civic-minded. But she is dismayed by the competitiveness of some students who seem prematurely focused on career status.

"We're encouraged a lot to be individuals and go out there and do what you want, and nobody should stand in your way," Kader said. "I can see goals and ambitions getting in the way of other things like relationships."

Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.

"People are worried about themselves — but in the sense of where are they're going to find a place in the world," she said. "People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world."

Besides, some of the responses on the narcissism test might not be worrisome, Dalane said. "It would be more depressing if people answered, 'No, I'm not special.'"

February 27, 2007
9:41 pm
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gracenotes
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Even reading this, I am not sure what this study means. I think the article confuses a lot of things. True narcissism is a scarey thing, as I am sure many here on on this board could agree with and does destroy relationships.

I think this study points out that there are degrees of narcissism. Its not black and white. There is a way to have positive traits of self-esteem, but also care about helping others too.

Kind of confusing really. Does anyone think this study is true, if this really relates to the current college age generation?

February 27, 2007
9:58 pm
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horsefly
this is off....be on this forum for years....not just since last year..we can email each other Now? that Nappy is long gone....
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Gracenotes, I have a nephew that is brilliant and he said w e are building are society around this.. It is very self imposed...neighbors do not count..ect..everyone is in for they on gain thing....selfiness run riot.....Well it is a little different than an person who has the mental disorder from abuse from childhood that never grew from and were stunned...People who just think they are special have a choice to make while they are developing , unfortunately society programs them to be just for themselves and screw everyone else ..horsefly

February 28, 2007
12:00 pm
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gracenotes
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horsefly,

Wow, that's sad...neighbors don't count. Lack of concern for others. Yeah, that's narcissism. I notice with some parents in my school job, they treat their kids like they are angels, very special, they can do no wrong. If any suggestion of them doing wrong occurs, the parents make it someone else's fault. That's where a lot of narcissism comes from. Also, there is such a thing as treating a child in such a way that his self-esteem is unrealistically high.

Most, if not all, of us here are trying to bolster our esteem, we received different messages growing up, but these parents of narcissistic kids are scarey. Very controlling too. They will probably be the future ones visiting their kids in jail and still assuring them they did no wrong. Narcissists seem to care very much about power and controlling. Not a good thing going on.

The kids I see at college, when I go to school, are in their late teens, 20's. Some are very rude to the instructor. They talk during class, show up late, leave early, waste class time by asking questions we're already gone over again and again beause they are not listening. Whine is given homework. The instructor is really trying to instill some social skills in them, like don't leave in the middle of class because you are hungry. Its not all the kids, about 10%. Maybe they are the future narcissists this study is talking about. They have no real regard for the instructor, no empathy for his teaching tasks. This is not only an instructor who truly cares and teaches well, he's also a true professional in his field.

Its angering and its sad that the actions of some have comprised the class to run at a lower level. But, that's what narcissistic people do.

February 28, 2007
12:59 pm
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tiedupinknots
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This is a huge problem. Society will hit its bottom soon. I personally will demand integrity and teach my children that nobody has less or more value than anyone else in terms of inherent worth.

February 28, 2007
7:47 pm
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gracenotes
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tiedupinknots,

I am glad you are teaching your children they all have inherent worth.

Inherent worth... I had a little problem understanding this when I saw a therapist, because I found that so much of what I called my worth had to do with what I do. My career, my accomplishments, etc.etc. I remember being younger and just sitting around, listening to music, and just being and feeling at peace with myself, feeling some kind of deep connection. I find it harder to do this now, although I do take time every morning to just be and meditate. But often, during that time, I am mentally rehearsing my busy day. It is getting a little better, though. Over the years, I think I've lost a lot of the thread of this beingness to busyness but I do at least intellectually "get" that we all have worth.

We don't have to do anything to be worthy, we just exist with worth, tied to the fact that we exist. I guess I have some things to think about.

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