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Narcissism: why it’s less obvious in women than in men – but can be just as dangerous


The term narcissism can conjure up images of arrogant and arrogant male self-promoters. In fact, this personality trait, with its characteristic traits of overt grandiosity, assertiveness, and superiority, is more commonly seen in men.


This is because these core characteristics closely align with traditional masculine traits. In fact, up to 75% of people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are men.

But in reality, narcissism is a modern epidemic that affects both men and women. Our new research, published in Sexual Rolesshows how narcissism manifests differently in women, but reveals that narcissistic women can be just as dangerous and violent as their male counterparts.


Our research reveals that women high in narcissistic traits tend to be more vulnerable and insecure than their male peers. That means it can sometimes be overlooked by clinicians, e.g. misdiagnosed as borderline personality disorder.

Narcissism is a complex personality trait. While full-blown narcissistic personality disorder is not very common, it affects approximately 1-2% of the populationWe all have narcissism to varying degrees.

Narcissistic personality traits can be expressed in two ways: great and vulnerable. People who exhibit more grandiose traits are self-confident and socially dominant. People who present more vulnerable traits are introverted and have lower self-esteem. Both forms share an antagonistic core, demonstrated by high levels of entitlement and willingness to exploit others.

In the context of intimate relationships, narcissism has Similarly it has been associated with perpetration of violence by men. Threats to your self-esteem can lead to feelings of shame, humiliation, and hurt pride, leading to aggressive behavior.

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Although women are less likely to show stereotypical manifestations of narcissism, that does not mean that narcissism is not as common in women. For example, consider the numerous reality TV stars who are famous for their self-centeredness and vanity, traits often associated with narcissism.

However, narcissism in women extends beyond self-absorption. Vulnerable narcissism involves traits such as emotional vulnerability, low self-esteem, and inhibition. These traits overlap with traditional notions of femininity. These gender differences in narcissism may be due to gender-specific stereotypes of masculinity and femininity ingrained from childhood.

Consequently, the tendency for men to display more grandiose traits and for women to display more vulnerable traits. may originate in part from parenting styles intended to make boys more assertive and girls more loving.

However, there is a danger of interpreting women’s narcissism as less harmful because of their initial presentation as softer, more loving, passive and vulnerable than men. Beneath this personality, they may lack empathy and harbor high levels of entitlement and willingness to exploit others.

This suggests that men and women can be aggressive or violent in different paths. Narcissistic women may be more likely to manipulate people, spread rumors, or be passive-aggressive than narcissistic men, for example.

Our recent research tested this for the first time. In a study of 328 adults (176 women and 152 men), we examined the complex dynamics between childhood experiences, narcissism, and IPV perpetration in men and women.

Participants completed an online survey and were asked questions about their personality traits. This captured both grandiose and vulnerable characteristics of narcissism using the Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Participants were also asked to indicate any conflicts that may have arisen during their past or present intimate relationships.

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Men scored higher on grandiose narcissism, while women scored higher on vulnerable narcissism. Despite these stark gender differences, it is important to remember that narcissism exists on a spectrum. Men can exhibit vulnerable traits and women can also exhibit grandiose traits.

Grandiose narcissism in men was associated with greater perpetration of psychological partner violence, such as being controlling, intimidating, or manipulative.

Surprisingly, grandiose narcissism in men was not associated with physical violence perpetration. This clashes with some previous research that measured narcissism using different methods. But in general, men are more likely than women to perpetrate violence, so a proportion of narcissistic men are likely to be violent.

More surprisingly, vulnerable narcissism in women was related to increased perpetration of physical, sexual, and psychological partner violence. It is important to note here that not all women with vulnerable narcissistic traits are violent.

In contrast, specific characteristics of vulnerable narcissism, such as devaluing others (assigning exaggerated negative qualities to them) and entitlement anger (attacking when you don’t get what you think you deserve) are associated with violent behavior.

Women who exhibit these characteristics to a greater extent are more likely to be shamefully dependent on others to be admired. As a result, they are more likely to respond violently in an attempt to regulate their self-esteem and gain positions of power.

Vulnerable narcissism in women is linked to relationship violence.
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For women, remembering having a loving mother during childhood was associated with reduced levels of vulnerable narcissism and subsequent perpetration of violence toward their partner. This suggests that there may be reservations that can be recognized and integrated into intervention programs.

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Detect narcissistic women

Despite long-standing evidence that portrays narcissistic men as more violent than women, our research shows that narcissistic women are not only verbally aggressive, as commonly portrayed in studiesbut also physically violent towards his partner.

Despite this, the way narcissistic women abuse others may not be recognized as stereotypically narcissistic. Instead, they may use their feminine identity to take advantage of social expectations that women are passive and protective.

This could include exploit their perception of victimhood to gain positions of power and control. Insidious tactics may include threatening (false) accusations of abuse, denying intimacy and affection, exploiting your motherhood to turn your children against your partner, and physically attacking your partner and blaming it on self-defense to gain sympathy from authorities. legal.

Our research challenges the stereotype that women are always the victims in abusive relationships. This balanced understanding promotes a more nuanced view of relational dynamics and gender roles in intimate relationships. By investigating the characteristics of narcissism in women, we can better recognize and unmask its true nature.

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