Ever feel misunderstood by grown-ups? Chances are you have, since many adults think youth are self-absorbed and demanding — but fret not. New research reveals our parents were just as narcissistic as we are.
A recent study published in the February issue of Psychological Science suggests the sense of entitlement and narcissism adults attribute to youth is not a reality.
According to the study’s lead author, Western psychology professor Kali Trzesniewski, young adults are no more narcissistic than previous generations.
Trzesniewski’s team looked at thousands of student responses to various psychological tests and questionnaires from the 1970s until the present. Over the decades, no major changes in the level of youth narcissism were evident.
Trzesniewski’s research suggests many adults feel the younger generation is more self-absorbed since aging minds jump to that conclusion.
“The exact reason isn’t clear,” Trzesniewski said. “But it’s been going on for generations. Parents and young adults clashing isn’t something new.”
Bertram Gawronski, Western psychology professor and Canada Research Chair of social psychology, agreed the problem has been going on for thousands of years.
“One of the major sources of conflict between generations is once you become a grown-up, you quickly forget what you were like when you were young,” Gawronski added.
Gawronski said emerging research in developmental psychology suggests everyone goes through a certain stage in their youth where self-centered behaviour is predominant.
In her research, Trzesniewski noted a balance between positive and negative narcissism. Overall, negative traits such as superiority have diminished over the years. More positive traits, such as self-sufficiency and leadership, have actually increased.
Trzesniewski said this can be a good thing.
“The average CEO is pretty narcissistic,” she said, noting the positive impact of some forms of narcissism in leadership roles.
Western students do not seem to feel more self-centered than their parents’ generation — but they understand why older folks might jump to that conclusion.
“I think every generation is a little self-absorbed,” third-year psychology and criminology student Wojciech Jarosz said. “I think when people look at others, they think others are more self-absorbed.”
“We’re from different generations,” Lia Karidas, a second-year media, information and technoculture student, noted. “It’s possible to relate, but only if you take the first step.”