Narcissistic? Maybe not so much. A report in the February issue of Psychological Science refutes a widely publicized 2006 study that found that contemporary youths are measurably more overconfident and egotistical than their predecessors. That view, frequently bolstered by anecdotal evidence, is often blamed on child-rearing practices that have placed a premium on boosting self-esteem.
Using scores from a questionnaire known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory completed by 25,000 California college students between 1979 and 2007, a team led by social psychologist Kali H. Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario analyzed changes in measurements of grandiosity, exhibitionism, a sense of entitlement and a preoccupation with power and success.
They found no evidence that levels of narcissism had changed.
This conclusion contradicts earlier findings by other researchers using much the same data who reported that narcissism had increased and attributed the increase to changes in the way children were being raised.
"We believe that great care needs to be exercised when making broad generalizations about cohort-related increases in narcissism," Trzesniewski and colleagues from the University of California at Davis and Michigan State University wrote.
Theirs is unlikely to be the final word on the subject: Other studies are underway.
-- Sandra G. Boodman