Eddie Brummelman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and another author on the study, noted that parents often think telling children how special they are relative to their peers will boost their self-confidence. But narcissism is not just a more extreme form of self-confidence; people with high-esteem do not think they’re better than others. According to his research, the more narcissistic children did not necessarily express more self-confidence.

“Rather than raising self-esteem, overvaluing practices may inadvertently raise levels of narcissism,” Brummelman said.

Over two years, the team evaluated 565 children in the Netherlands who were between the ages of 7 and 11 years old when the study began. They asked parents how much they agreed with statements like, “My child is a great example for other children to follow,” and whether or not they believed their children would have knowledge of various historical and cultural figures and topics, like “Neil Armstrong.” Eventually, the researchers began including entirely fictional figures and topics, “Queen Alberta.” The parents raising little narcissists would often fall for it.

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