News Release

Unravelling the gendered undertones of narcissism

Peer-Reviewed Publication

City University London

The researchers found that the trait manifests itself in vulnerable and subtle ways in women, which deviates from stereotypical manifestations of (male) narcissism that are typically expressed in grandiose and overt ways.

Psychologists Dr Ava Green, Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at City, and Dr Claire Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Southampton, have, for the first time, examined the combination of narcissism origins and narcissism’s role in violence. It is also the first time both male and female narcissism have been examined in detail. The studies have been published in the journal Sex Roles.

Most research to date on inter-partner violence focuses on grandiose narcissism, and mostly on men.

“There has been little research on vulnerable narcissism and on narcissism in women,” explained Dr Green. “Part of this relates to the need to use gender-inclusive assessments of narcissism that move beyond traditional male centric frameworks. Our research addresses this gap.”

Dr Hart added: “Narcissism is a complex personality trait. We all exhibit narcissistic features to varying degrees, which can be expressed in both grandiose and vulnerable forms. Individuals who exhibit more grandiose features are self-assured and socially dominant whereas individuals who exhibit more vulnerable features are introverted and have lower self-esteem. Both grandiose and vulnerable narcissism share an antagonistic core, demonstrated by high levels of entitlement and willingness to exploit others.”

Narcissism and partner violence

Studying 328 adults (176 women and 152 men), Dr Green and Dr Hart examined the complex dynamics between childhood experiences, narcissism, and perpetration of intimate partner violence in males and females.

Men scored higher on grandiose narcissism whilst women scored higher on vulnerable narcissism.

Dr Green said: “We found that grandiose narcissism in men was associated with greater perpetration of psychological partner violence, whilst vulnerable narcissism in women was linked with greater perpetration of physical, sexual, and psychological partner violence.

“For women, recalling having a caring mother during childhood was associated with reduced levels of vulnerable narcissism and subsequent perpetration of violence toward their partner, highlighting possible buffers that can be acknowledged and integrated into intervention programmes.”

Narcissism and bullying amongst friends

Dr Green and Dr Hart also examined how grandiose and vulnerable narcissism contribute to bullying among friendship groups, surveying a total of 314 women.

Dr Hart said: “When examined separately, higher scores on vulnerable narcissism were associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in verbal, physical, and indirect forms of bullying. Higher scores on grandiose narcissism were associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in physical or verbal bullying. However, when both types of narcissism were considered simultaneously, only vulnerable narcissism emerged as a significant predictor of physical and verbal bullying, highlighting the relevance of this form of narcissism in bullying perpetration among women.”

Dr Green added: “These findings show that narcissistic women are less likely to manifest the stereotypical expressions of grandiose narcissism that closely resemble masculine features of males in society, potentially due to fears of receiving backlash for violating feminine gender stereotypes.

“Instead, features of vulnerable narcissism, which more closely aligns with femininity, is a greater risk marker for offending behaviours in women and, as a consequence, more likely marginalised and disregarded due to its elusive and subtle features.”

A better understanding of the role narcissism plays in women can help to inform and tailor appropriate gender-specific interventions to reduce the perpetration of intimate partner violence and bullying.

 

ENDS
 

NOTES TO EDITORS

The full research is published in two new papers, available here:

Green, A., Hart, C.M., Day, N. et al. Gendering Narcissism: Different Roots and Different Routes to Intimate Partner Violence. Sex Roles (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-024-01471-4

Green, A., Hart, C.M. Mean Girls in Disguise? Associations Between Vulnerable Narcissism and Perpetration of Bullying Among Women. Sex Roles (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-024-01477-y

For further information contact:

George Wigmore, Senior Communications Officer, City University of London
george.wigmore@city.ac.uk or +44 (0)7341 469 811.

Lucy Collie, PR Manager, University of Southampton 
L.J.Collie@soton.ac.uk, +44 (0)7584 368687

 

City, University of London

  • City, University of London is a global higher education institution committed to academic excellence, with a focus on business and the professions and an enviable central London location.
  • City’s academic range is broadly-based with world-leading strengths in business; law; health sciences; mathematics; computer science; engineering; social sciences; and the arts including journalism and music.
  • City has around 20,000 students (46% at postgraduate level) from more than 160 countries and staff from over 75 countries.
  • In the last REF, City doubled the proportion of its total academic staff producing world-leading or internationally excellent research.
  • More than 140,000 former students from over 180 countries are members of the City Alumni Network.
  • The University’s history dates from 1894, with the foundation of the Northampton Institute on what is now the main part of City’s campus. In 1966, City was granted University status by Royal Charter and the Lord Mayor of London became its Chancellor. In September 2016, City joined the University of London and HRH the Princess Royal became City’s Chancellor.

 

The University of Southampton drives original thinking, turns knowledge into action and impact, and creates solutions to the world’s challenges. We are among the top 100 institutions globally (QS World University Rankings 2023). Our academics are leaders in their fields, forging links with high-profile international businesses and organisations, and inspiring a 22,000-strong community of exceptional students, from over 135 countries worldwide. Through our high-quality education, the University helps students on a journey of discovery to realise their potential and join our global network of over 200,000 alumni. www.southampton.ac.uk


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