The Invisible Effects Narcissistic Parents Have On Their Children

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When meeting someone new, it’s important to remember that they’re a byproduct of their life up until they met you, especially their first years on this Earth. Many behaviors, both good and bad, can be linked back to the way someone’s parents raised them. That’s why we hear sayings such as ‘were you raised in a barn?’ or ‘your parents raised you well’ when degrading or praising someone respectively.

These aren’t behaviors that are easily lost either, as our childhood lessons stick with us for a lifetime. That includes lessons that were damaging or harmful, like what children of narcissistic parents tend to learn.

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Early Influences

Our upbringing shapes us in a number of different ways, for better or for worse. Parents, siblings, home life, school life, friendships, and more can all influence us in ways that shapes who we become.

Two parents each holding one of their baby's hands, helping him walk.
Pexels / Vidal Balielo Jr.
Pexels / Vidal Balielo Jr.

Positive influences can bring us confidence, self-awareness, and resilience, while negative influences can cause feelings of stress, insecurity, and low self-esteem. The way we are today is a complete product of our upbringing, having learned our values and skills thanks to the people we were surrounded with.

Growth And Development

Given all that, it’s easy to then make the connection that being raised in a negative environment can beget negative outcomes. This kind of upbringing can lead to not only some nasty habits and bad coping mechanisms, but a negative view of the world overall. One parenting type known for leading to negative behaviors in adulthood is narcissistic parenting.

Two parents and their daughter sitting in the snow, the mom helping the daughter make something.
Pexels / Victoria Akvarel
Pexels / Victoria Akvarel

Children of narcissistic parents are left with deep scars that continue to affect them in ways they might not even be aware of. There are a number of things children of narcissistic parents do that you may not be aware are a product of their upbringing. In fact, they might not know it either.


Children of narcissistic parents tend to become massive people pleasers. While making others happy on its own is a positive trait, it’s easy for that to warp into something more damaging to a person’s mental health as they continuously stretch themselves thin trying to help other people.

Two parents each holding one of their baby's hands, helping him walk.
Pexels / Vidal Balielo Jr.
Pexels / Vidal Balielo Jr.

Of course, this all comes at the expense of their own mental and physical health. They take on a peacekeeper role with the hopes that it’ll prevent people from lashing out at them like their narcissistic parent once did, even if the person they’re with would never dream of it.

Not Trusting Others

As narcissistic parents tend to lie often (be it about themselves or others) to make themselves look better in comparison, it can become very hard for their children to trust others. When you grow up surrounded by nothing but lies, you assume that’s a normal behavior for everyone, even outside of your household.

A young girl seated on a windowsill, her knees to her chest, forehead resting on her knees.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Though they may grow to learn that’s not the case as they leave home and experience the world for themselves, it’s a hard notion to shake. That expectation of untruths is a hard thing to shake, so immediately not trusting anybody becomes the default.

Picking Partners Similar To Their Parents

The concept of choosing a partner that’s at least somewhat like your own parents isn’t anything new. It’s a theory that’s floated around for ages now, with researchers attributing the phenomenon to other areas of psychology like imprinting or attachment styles.

A couple arguing, using animated hand motions while one holds a notebook.
Pexels / Ketut Subiyanto
Pexels / Ketut Subiyanto

Children of narcissistic parents are not free from this. In fact, their parents toxicity may lend itself even further to their choosing of a similar partner.

As they’re raised to depend on someone who’s so volatile and manipulative, that becomes all they know how to live with. To avoid the stress of having to adapt to something new, even if it would be healthier, their brain instead latches onto the familiar, yet toxic similarities they might find in an equally narcissistic partner.

Constantly Second-Guessing Themselves

Being raised by a narcissist means facing much criticism, often unwarranted. In an attempt to make themselves feel and look superior, narcissists will put down others around them for any reason they can think of, even if it’s entirely unfounded. Their children are around them all the time, so they often receive the brunt of this.

An older woman looking out a window forlornly.
Pexels / Teona Swift
Pexels / Teona Swift

That feeling of always being scrutinized, being watched, and being judged means children of narcissists will constantly second-guess their every action well into adulthood.

Keeping People At A Distance

If you weren’t aware by now, the damage a narcissistic parent can cause someone is immeasurable. It affects their daily lives, and permeates into every area of their existence, affecting their wellbeing in a number of ways.

A woman sitting alone on a bench next to a lake, looking sad.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Since their first and most fundamental experiences with humanity was their parents who hurt them so much, it makes sense that they form a deep distrust of people as a whole, and thus develop a tendency to keep people at a distance. In their minds and hearts, all they’re doing is protecting themselves from further harm.

Self-Deprecating Behavior

This one is again caused by the overall harm that narcissistic parents do. It’s actually a culmination of it, as everything from their habitual lying to their strict criticisms and between cause an overall depreciation of their children’s mental health. Their self-worth declines every time their parents exhibit a toxic, narcissistic behavior, and that sticks with them.

A torso, side shot of someone fidgeting with their hands out of nervousness.
Pexels / cottonbro studio
Pexels / cottonbro studio

This results in the child engaging in a lot of self-deprecation in their adulthood. Be it through jokes, constant doubt, or a genuine belief that they are lesser than other people, they’re self-esteem is forever affected.

A Blind Eye

Children of narcissistic parents have faced an emotionally brutal upbringing, placed in a highly hostile environment and still expected to develop in the same regulated ways that those with emotionally healthy parents do. It’s not fair, as is any injustice a child faces. Because the abuse they faced seems so covert compared to other portrayals, they might not even realize they’ve been mistreated until they’ve escaped.

A young child sitting on a stair, knees to her chest, crying.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Trying to fight back against the habits developed under the care of narcissistic parents is an arduous journey, but an honorable one too.

A Future For You

The scars left by childhood abuse and neglect run deep, but they’re nothing that can’t be overcome with time and effort. It’s not fair that some children are burdened by the weight of their parents’ emotional issues, but they also need to know that this isn’t their life forever. Even in adulthood, it can feel like these weights are unshakeable.

Two parents and their daughter seated at a dinner table, the daughter sitting in the mother's lap.
Pexels / cottonbro studio
Pexels / cottonbro studio

But not matter the habits you have, they’re capable of being broken. Your peace is worth working towards, your worth is far more than your upbringing has led you to believe, and your happiness should always be your goal. Care for yourself as you would a good friend, you deserve it just as much as they do.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]