There are theories there is a predisposition, a genetic component along with a combination of the way a child is nurtured which causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some believe it is overindulgence or abuse, NPD is an attachment disorder. The child did not bond with the caregiver in infancy. The child’s needs were not met, the child struggles to have his or her needs met and they are shut down by the parent, so the child forms a false self one which is acceptable to the parent. The abused child raised by a narcissistic parent developes a hard wired defense coping mechanism to with stand the abuse. I believe narcissism is passed down through generations. Narcissistic parents raise either narcissistic or codependent children. Not every child raised by a narcissist becomes a narcissist. The child with the stronger personality will become codependent.
The environment in the home with a narcissistic parent is one in which everyone in the household serves the needs of the narcissistic parent. One in which no one is safe from the abuse. The child’s needs are never a consideration. They grow up in a dog eat dog world where every man is for themselves. These children are taught early on they cannot depend on the adults in their lives. The children walk on eggshells never knowing when they are going to say or do the wrong thing. The children are blamed and shamed for every wrong move. The wrong move could be spilling a glass of milk, this act can send the narcissistic parent into a rage. The narcissistic parent rules through abuse, fear, punishment, and intimidation. The spouse and children of the narcissist fear his/her very presence. If the narcissistic parent is the bread winner in the family this is another source of power, the children and spouse are dependent upon him/or her, they hold purse stings and use this to their full advantage. Children growing up in these types of homes are shown they do not matter.
Children look for a way to be accepted by the parent. Needing love, comfort, and support. In order to grow into a healthy mature adult these things are required. In the narcissistic household some children will be favored over others, this will be done overtly. This child may be what some call the golden child and though they are favored their needs are also neglected. Then there is the scapegoat child who receives the harshest criticism and abuse. Some say it is scapegoat child and others say the golden child who grow up to become narcissists. Based on my own personal experience the golden child or the scapegoat child can grow up to become a narcissist. It depends on the child and the personality of the child.
Children growing up in a harsh environment are taught to abandon their own needs in order to serve the narcissistic parent. Some children begin to identify with their abuser and even admire their abusive parent. These children who admire the narcissistic parent begin to emulate the abusive parent. They will bully other children and begin to lie and abuse others. The core personality of this child’s development stops growing and maturing. They develop a false persona one like their abuser. This false personality grows as the real self is abandoned and shut off. This false personality becomes hard wired formed as a defense coping mechanism which grew in order to protect the child. This child grows up to be a narcissist. The false personality is their shield against a harsh cruel world. The core self is no longer accessible not even to the narcissist.
On the other end of the spectrum is the child who abandons themselves in order to please others. While they do have a sense of self it is a weak sense of self. They give up their own needs, wants, desires and seek validation through people pleasing behaviors. This is not an altruistic act in service to others. This is codependency. The codependent gets a sense of self worth from pleasing others. They become very hurt when they realize people are not there for them in the same way. This can be a wake up call for the codependent. Where the narcissist is not capable of change, the codependent can change. Where the narcissist cannot see their own behavior patterns, the codependent can self reflect. There is much hope for the codependent when they begin to form boundaries. In childhood boundaries were walked all over and basically stripped from them. Not having boundaries leaves them susceptible to abuse. The codependent grows up feeling less than. Work needs to be done to develop a better sense of self and self worth. The core self is accessible but one must dig deep in order to heal childhood wounds.
Many people wonder about the attraction between Narcissists and Codependents. They were born and raised in the same environment. It is a dance all too familiar to both.