Study Reveals Narcissism as a Threat to Long-Lasting Friendships

A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reveals the effects of narcissism on friendship experiences.

The research, conducted over the course of a year on adults in Germany, found that those with narcissistic tendencies, characterized by disregarding others’ feelings and reacting with anger and defiance when challenged, had reduced positive and increased negative friendship experiences.


Friendships play a crucial role in fulfilling our basic need for belonging and contribute to our mental and physical health, happiness, and overall well-being.

To maintain satisfying relationships, certain behaviors must be present, such as offering support, being open and honest, spending time together, and solving problems effectively. Without these behaviors, relationships may suffer and eventually dissolve.


The study of Caroline Wehner and Matthias Ziegler aimed to examine the impact of two facets of narcissism – narcissistic admiration and rivalry – on the quality of long-term friendships, and vice versa.

The research was carried out among a group of 831 adults from Germany recruited through various sources such as social media, email lists, and flyers. The participant’s data were collected four times over one year, each session being three months apart.


Most individuals with pronounced narcissistic traits tend to be alluring, confident, and engaging at the beginning of a relationship. Still, their behavior transforms into egotistic, insensitive, and hostile as time passes.

This shift in behavior leads to an unstable relationship marked by alternating idealization and devaluation, which creates a weak foundation for long-term relationships, including friendships.


The average age of participants in the study was 26.2 years, with the oldest participant being 79. Most participants were female, accounting for 80.6% of the total participants.

Half of the participants had completed secondary education, while another 32% had completed tertiary education. Out of the full participants, 65% were students.
The study by Caroline Wehner and Matthias Ziegler aimed to investigate the impact of narcissistic traits on the quality of long-term friendships.

To achieve this, assessments of narcissism (Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire) and friendship quality (the Network of Relationship Inventory) were completed by 831 participants from Germany and recruited through various methods.

Participants completed the assessments online and received feedback on their personality traits or course credit if they were psychology students.
The friendship quality assessment evaluated four key aspects: appreciation, conflict, dominance, and intimacy.

Results showed that individuals with higher levels of narcissistic rivalry had fewer close friendships and fewer positive experiences in social relationships.

Additionally, narcissistic admiration and rivalry were linked to higher levels of conflict in a friendship, and changes in appreciation were found to affect later narcissistic rivalry.


While the study provides significant insights into the relationship between narcissistic traits and friendship quality, it should be noted that the sample was composed mostly of female and young adults, two-thirds of whom were students, and all participants were from Germany.

These results may not generalize to other populations, such as males, older individuals, or different cultures.

The study, “Narcissism and friendship quality: A longitudinal approach to long-term friendships”, was authored by Caroline Wehner and Matthias Ziegler from the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin.

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