How Narcissistic Parents Affect Mental Health in Children

For many children, childhood is a time of wonder, play, and discovery. These children have parents who give them the safety and security to explore the world around them and grow to reach their full potential. 

But some children have one or more parents who lack the right skills or behavior to allow their children to feel safe, secure, and unconditionally loved. Those children who are raised by someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often experience prolonged trauma, and the effects of this trauma can linger into adulthood.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

When we hear the word narcissist, we often think of certain politicians or celebrities who are known for their boastful and arrogant behavior. And while these traits are definitely annoying, narcissism is far more complex and destructive to those in the relationship with the narcissist, particularly children.

The main characteristics of narcissism are a lack of empathy and the inability to recognize the emotional needs of others. Narcissistic parents also tend to view their offspring as competition while simultaneously denying them independent personhood. 

Some other key characteristics of narcissistic parents include:

  • Codependency
  • Inflexible
  • Lying
  • Manipulative
  • Superficial
  • Self-involved
  • Superior

After reviewing the list, maybe some of the characteristics may fit and some may not. However, parents may have narcissistic tendencies and that can still create imbalance in the home and pain for the child. Oftentimes, the whole family system revolves around his person and pleasing them.

How Does a Narcissistic Parent Affect a Child’s Mental Health?

The following are some common ways kids, and adult children of narcissists, feel about themselves and life in general:

Low Self-Worth

You grow up feeling unseen and unheard. Your emotional needs never really mattered. This is very normal for children developmental as they do not have a strong sense of identity apart from the parent. Children look to their parents to determine who they are and if they are lovable. Children of parents who have narcissistic tendencies struggle to be affirmed that they are valuable.


Narcissistic parents make sure it’s ALWAYS about them. Children grow up feeling 100% responsible for making sure their parent’s needs (financial, emotional, and otherwise) are taken care of. They do not learn how to form healthy boundaries, only how to please others.

Crippling Self-Doubt

Narcissists are liars and manipulators. They will “gaslight” their children into believing a false reality. As a result, children grow up with crippling self-doubt, never believing they can trust their own feelings.

If you believe one or both of your parents was a narcissist and you are suffering from any of these aftereffects, you CAN heal. Some people may be considered to have narcissistic tendencies and can cause damage as well. Working with a therapist who specializes in recovery from narcissistic abuse can put you on the path to self-love, self-compassion, and greater joy and intimacy with others.

We have many therapists at Authentic Connections who are able to assist in healing from the pain associated with being in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic tendencies. If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch our intake coordinator, Blair.