What is it Like To Be Raised By a Narcissist?

Growing up with a narcissistic parent can have a profound impact on an individual’s life. The constant need for validation, lack of empathy, and manipulative behaviors can shape one’s perspective and emotional well-being.

In this article, we will delve into the experiences and challenges faced by individuals who were raised by narcissistic parents. From understanding the traits of narcissism to exploring the long-term effects, we will uncover the complex dynamics of such relationships.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism refers to a personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Individuals with narcissistic traits often exhibit grandiose behavior, manipulation, and an obsession with their own achievements.

It is important to note that not all individuals with narcissistic tendencies have a full-blown personality disorder, but their behaviors can still significantly impact those around them.

The Characteristics of a Narcissistic Parent

Being raised by a narcissistic parent means growing up in an environment where their needs and desires consistently take precedence over your own. Here are some common characteristics exhibited by narcissistic parents:

  1. Lack of Empathy: Narcissistic parents struggle to understand and empathize with their children’s emotions and experiences. They may dismiss or belittle their child’s feelings, invalidating their emotional needs.
  2. Excessive Criticism: Narcissistic parents often resort to harsh criticism, aiming to undermine their child’s self-esteem. They may constantly point out flaws and failures, leaving the child feeling unworthy and inadequate.
  3. Emotional Manipulation: Manipulation is a key tool in the narcissistic parent’s arsenal. They use guilt trips, gaslighting, and emotional blackmail to control and manipulate their children, ensuring their compliance and loyalty.

The Impact of Narcissistic Parenting

Growing up with a narcissistic parent can have lasting effects on an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being. Some of the common challenges faced by those raised by narcissists include:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism and lack of validation can result in low self-esteem. Children of narcissistic parents may struggle with feelings of unworthiness and develop a negative self-image.
  2. Insecurity and Trust Issues: The inconsistent and unpredictable nature of narcissistic parents can lead to a profound sense of insecurity. Trusting others becomes challenging, as they may have learned that their needs and feelings are not important or valued.
  3. Boundary Difficulties: Narcissistic parents often disregard boundaries, treating their children as extensions of themselves. This can lead to difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in personal relationships.

The Narcissistic Parent-Child Relationship

The Golden Child vs. the Scapegoat

In narcissistic families, dynamics often revolve around the roles of the golden child and the scapegoat.

  1. The Golden Child: The golden child is the favored child of the narcissistic parent. They are showered with praise, attention, and privileges. However, this seemingly enviable position comes with its own set of challenges, as the golden child is expected to fulfill the parent’s unmet needs and maintain the facade of the perfect family.
  2. The Scapegoat: The scapegoat is the child who bears the brunt of the narcissistic parent’s frustrations and insecurities. They are often blamed for the family’s problems and are subjected to constant criticism and emotional abuse. The scapegoat serves as a distraction and a target for the narcissistic parent’s negative emotions.

The Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic parents often engage in a cyclical pattern of abuse, consisting of three phases:

  1. Idealization: In this phase, the narcissistic parent showers their child with attention, affection, and praise. They create an idealized image of the child, using it as a means to boost their own ego.
  2. Devaluation: Once the child fails to meet the unrealistic expectations set by the narcissistic parent, the devaluation phase begins. The parent becomes critical, demeaning, and may engage in emotional or verbal abuse.
  3. Discard or Reconciliation: The final phase involves either discarding the child altogether or attempting to reconcile after a period of estrangement. This cycle can repeat itself multiple times, causing immense confusion and emotional turmoil for the child.

What is it Like to be Raised by a Narcissist?

Growing up with a narcissistic parent can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally draining experience. Here are some personal accounts and insights shared by individuals who have lived through this unique upbringing:

  1. Constant Need for Validation: “My mother was always seeking validation from me. My achievements were her achievements, and any failure on my part was a reflection of her own self-worth. It felt suffocating and overwhelming.”
  2. Manipulation and Guilt: “My father would manipulate my emotions to get what he wanted. He would guilt-trip me into complying with his demands, making me feel responsible for his happiness. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t responsible for his well-being.”
  3. Identity Suppression: “Growing up, I was never allowed to express my own opinions or pursue my own interests. My mother expected me to mirror her values and aspirations. It left me feeling lost and disconnected from my true self.”
  4. Difficulty Establishing Boundaries: “I still struggle with setting boundaries in my relationships. Growing up, my boundaries were constantly violated, and I was conditioned to believe that it was normal. It takes a lot of effort to unlearn those patterns.”
  5. Fear of Rejection: “My mother’s love was conditional. If I didn’t meet her expectations, she would withdraw her affection and give me the silent treatment. As a result, I developed a deep fear of rejection and abandonment.”
  6. Lingering Emotional Scars: “Even though I have distanced myself from my narcissistic parent, the scars still linger. I often battle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Therapy has been instrumental in helping me heal and rebuild my sense of self.”


Can narcissistic parents change?

While it is challenging for individuals with narcissistic traits to change, it is not entirely impossible. Genuine self-reflection, therapy, and a willingness to acknowledge and address their behavior are essential for any potential change to occur. However, it is important for adult children of narcissistic parents to prioritize their own well-being and set boundaries accordingly.

Are all narcissistic parents intentionally abusive?

Not all narcissistic parents are intentionally abusive. Some may not even realize the impact of their behavior on their children. Nevertheless, their lack of empathy, excessive self-focus, and manipulative tendencies can still cause significant emotional harm to their children.

How can I heal from the effects of narcissistic parenting?

Healing from the effects of narcissistic parenting is a journey that requires time, self-compassion, and support. Seeking therapy or joining support groups specifically catered to individuals with narcissistic parents can provide valuable insights, tools, and v

Can the effects of narcissistic parenting impact future relationships?

Yes, the effects of narcissistic parenting can impact future relationships. Individuals raised by narcissistic parents may struggle with trust, intimacy, and establishing healthy boundaries. However, with self-awareness and healing, it is possible to cultivate healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Can a narcissistic parent love their children?

Narcissistic parents may have difficulty expressing genuine love and empathy towards their children. Their love is often conditional, based on the fulfillment of their own needs and expectations. However, it is important to recognize that each individual’s experience may vary, and some narcissistic parents may display moments of affection or care.

Is it okay to cut off contact with a narcissistic parent?

Cutting off contact with a narcissistic parent is a personal decision that depends on the individual’s circumstances and well-being. In some cases, maintaining a distance can be necessary for one’s emotional health and growth. However, it is crucial to seek professional guidance and support when making such a decision.


Growing up with a narcissistic parent can be a tumultuous experience, leaving lasting emotional scars. Understanding the characteristics and dynamics of narcissistic parenting is crucial for individuals seeking to heal and reclaim their sense of self. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources and support available to help you navigate the complex journey of healing and recovery.

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