Consequences of childhood memories: Narcissism, malevolent, and benevolent childhood experiences


School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development

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Previous research has shown that narcissistic personality traits can differentiate in those with childhood abuse and rejection. However, narcissism has not been evaluated in various family systems, with the consideration for negative and positive childhood experiences.


The following study evaluates differences in narcissism in those who are raised in various childhood environments that sometimes result in adverse long-term outcomes. We examine the extent to which both traumatic and benevolent childhood experiences that manifest from parent-child relationships increase or decrease the likelihood of narcissistic traits.

Participants and setting

Adoptees (N= 71), former foster children (N = 59), and those who were neither adopted nor former foster children (N = 207) were assessed for early maladaptive schemas (EMS), benevolent childhood memories (BCE), and narcissistic personality traits.


Participants were recruited through Facebook support groups and non-profit organizations specifically created for adult adoptees or former foster children to complete an online survey. Others were recruited from a participant pool at a large, public university in the American Southeast to serve as a comparison group.


Individuals who were fostered or adopted had lower levels of narcissism compared to those who are neither. These differences were partially explained by differences in BCE and EMS, with BCE increasing the likelihood of narcissism and EMS decreasing the likelihood. The impact of EMS became non-significant when controlling for BCE.


Those from less privileged backgrounds are unlikely to develop narcissism as a protective mechanism but are more likely to have maladaptive schemas. Interventions for those from less privileged backgrounds should aim at providing more benevolent childhood experiences to lessen the impact of maladaptive schemas.

Journal Title

Child Abuse & Neglect



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