Genetically fixed narcissist
Father and daughter feeling of grandiosity and entitlement may be similar
We are living in an era of selfies. Many are using the label “narcissists” to describe self-absorbed people around. Not always a diagnosis and often unwarranted, unfair label and misunderstood personality.
However, we know toxic people exist. Importantly, a toxic relationship with toxic people is hurtful and confusing for many who are prone to self-reflection.
The classic definition of narcissism describes a person attaching importance and excellence to themselves while enjoying exploiting and manipulating others. The narcissist truly believes that “others exist for me.” Researchers are perplexed if this personality emerges from childhood experiences or predetermined by brain functioning inherited from parents.
Behavioral genetics is a fascinating area of research that often conducts the studies with twins, to distinguish nature versus nurture.
There are two main dimensions of a narcissistic personality: intrapersonal grandiosity and interpersonal entitlement. Both are found to be heritable by a study of 304 pairs of twins. These two aspects are hereditary, and both are passed down to offsprings separately. Twins in the study were 15–27 years old, and only half of the pairs shared the same genetics (monozygotic versus dizygotic). Participants were asked to describe themselves on 7 point scale for each of 16 adjectives: perfect, omnipotent, powerful, extraordinary, outstanding, brave, unique, powerful, admirable, prestigious, honorable, excellent, respectable, talented, advanced, enviable, and vigorous, to determine self-reported grandiosity.
Participants were also asked to evaluate the statements like “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others” and “I feel entitled to more of everything” apply to them on a scale of 7. A high score indicates a high level of entitlement.
Contrary to a myth that narcissists are mostly males, this study estimated sex and age not being predictive of the level of grandiosity or entitlement. Males viewed themselves as only slightly more grandiose than females did.
Further, the study examined the environmental circumstances to look into did twins share the same household. The goal was to model genetic, shared, and non-shared environmental impacts on both dimensions. Additionally, investigators studied a correlation between a person’s level of grandiosity and entitlement.
Both dimensions (grandiosity or entitlement) were often co-occurring in the same person. Genetically identical twins had similar measures of grandiosity. However, nonidentical twins sharing the same household environment did not. After adjusting to a non-shared household, the grandiosity was determined to be a heritable personality dimension.
The entitlement level was also alike for the identical twins and not so much for dizygotic twins indicating an individual’s entitlement originates from the genetic and non-shared environment. Interestingly, both dimensions’ genetic features are distinct and only slightly overlap according to this recent study.
Feeling to be someone “unique” or “above average” is determined by genetic makeup. “Uniqueness” genes appear as a cluster of genetic variants.
The two main dimensions of narcissism are moderately heritable. The heritability is 23% for grandiosity and 35% for the feeling of entitlement.
Neuroimaging by fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) examined different brain regions (media orbitofrontal cortex, right anterior insula) confirmed that a narcissist’s mind is unique. A smaller grey matter volume in the left anterior insula and frontal-paralimbic brain regions in narcissists was first described by researchers at the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Intriguingly, another twin research from Sweden suggests narcissism is the number one heritable personality disorder. Chances to inherit narcissism from a parent are higher compared heritability of obsessive-compulsive, borderline, histrionic, schizotypal, dependent, self-defeating, schizoid, paranoid, or avoidant personality.
There is evidence that father with a narcissistic personality is more likely to supply genetic material of narcissism to daughter, which may indicate the X- chromosome encoding MAO-A (Monoamine oxidase A) gene involvement. Correlation of father/daughter levels of grandiose narcissism is important, though an association mother-daughter, mother-son, father-son are close to zero.
Genetic factors have a fundamental influence on the development of a personality disorder.