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Personal Ment Health. 2014 Oct;8(4):290-305. doi: 10.1002/pmh.1269.

Retrospective reports of attachment disruptions, parental abuse and neglect mediate the relationship between pathological narcissism and self-esteem.

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University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA.


Studies have shown a direct relationship between pathological narcissism and self-esteem; however, there have not been many studies that have empirically tested which theoretically relevant variables mediate this relationship. In the present study, we evaluated how self-reported, early negative childhood experiences with parental figures mediate the relationship between pathological narcissism and self-esteem. Four-hundred eight-five undergraduates from a Midwestern university retrospectively assessed their experiences of parental attachment and bonding, as well as their levels of pathological narcissism and current self-esteem. There was a significant correlation among all pathological narcissism subscales and self-esteem, except for the Exploitativeness subscale. Self-esteem was negatively correlated with all negative childhood experiences on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and was positively correlated with positive childhood experiences on the Parental Attachment Questionnaire (PAQ). The parental relationship quality was negatively associated with all but one Pathological Narcissism Inventory subscale, as was the PAQ total score. Lastly, emotional neglect on the CTQ significantly mediated the relationship between several pathological narcissism subscales and self-esteem. When investigating parental attachment and parental bonding, the quality of the relationship with the parent was a significant mediator between pathological narcissism and self-esteem. These findings demonstrate the importance of understanding the adverse effects of parental abuse and neglect on healthy development of the self and self-esteem. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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