Empathetic and Aggressive Reactions to Agentic and Communal Threats towards Narcissistic Parents versus Non Narcissistic Parents Student Name University Name December 2013 Introduction Word Count: 846 Abstract Besser and Priel’s (2010) study suggest that grandiose narcissist experience vulnerability to achievement oriented threats whereas vulnerable narcissist shows sensitivity to interpersonal threats that result in negative emotional reactions.
The study included an achievement oriented threat inflicted by a coworker and an interpersonal threat inflicted by a significant other. Previous research has yet to tudy how communal and agentic threats, derivations of achievement and interpersonal threats, affect a narcissistic parent’s empathetic and aggression reactions when these threats are inflicted by their child; therefore examining a generally deeper connection, the child and parent relationship.
A study is proposed where parents will be presented with a hypothetical threat scenario containing either an agentic or communal threat to examine whether narcissistic parents, in both the grandiose and vulnerable dimension, are affected more than non-narcissist when presented with either a communal or agentic threat, when the threat is inflicted by heir child.
It is predicted that both grandiose and vulnerable narcissist will show greater empathetic and aggressive reactions when presented with these threats than non-narcissist, but each individually react more Research has shown that the two separate spectrums of narcissism, grandiose and vulnerable narcissism, differ in their relation with emotional reactivity to domain- specific threats (Besser & Priel, 2010). Various studies have identified the two individual dimensions of narcissism, grandiose and vulnerable narcissism (e. . , AKntar & I nomson, IYB2; cooper, IYYB; DICKInson & Plncus, 2 989,1998; Gersten, 1991; Hendin & ceek, 1997; K0hut, 1971; Rose, 2002; ROVik, 2001; Wink, 1991, 1996). Grandiose narcissism is a subtype of narcissism that is described by the diagnostic criteria of narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) as one with a sense of entitlement, reactivity to criticism, arrogance, and self- absorption.
Those diagnosed with this specific type of narcissism were found to report more concerns for self-presentation, status, power, dominance, and physical beauty (Hill & McFerren, 1995). On the other hand, vulnerable narcissism is specifically characterized by less functional self-enhancement strategies to manage self-esteem and therefore is dependent on feedback from others to modulate self- esteem. They also exhibit a heightened hypersensitivity to interpersonal situations that could foster shame (Besser & Priel, 2009; Mikulincer, Kedem, & Paz, 1990).
Although vulnerable narcissism has several factors that differentiate it from grandiose narcissism, it is also associated with grandiose fantasies about the self, feelings of entitlement, and a willingness to exploit other for one’s own gain (Cooper, 998; Dickinson & Pincus, 2003; Pimentel, Ansell, Pincus & Cain, 2006; Pincus et al. , 2009). As these two subtypes of narcissism differentiate on many aspects, research has suggested that certain types of treats affect one more than others (Besser & Priel, 2010).
In Besser and Priel’s (2010) study they examined how grandiose and vulnerable narcissist reported emotional reactions to two different types of threats, an achievement oriented threat and an interpersonal rejection threat. They found that participants with high levels of grandiose narcissism were more vulnerable to chievement oriented threats and only showed significant negative emotions when the high threat of the achievement oriented condition was presented.
Those high on vulnerable narcissist on the other hand, were more sensitive to interpersonal threats and showed significant negative emotions in both the high and low threat conditions. Associations between Narcissism, Empathy, and Aggression Overall research suggests that narcissist are more likely than non-narcissist to attack a person who threatens their self-evaluation, because of the sensitivity of the self- evaluation (Baumeister, Smart, & Gordenm, 1996). Baumeister et al. 1996) proposed mechanisms for the aggressive behavior of narcissists that suggests that people whose self-esteem is highly vulnerable are more likely to commit aggressive acts towards a person who threatens their self-esteem. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1984) is the most commonly used measure to examine the association between narcissism and aggression. Research suggests that empathy serves as a mediating variable between narcissism and the display of aggression (Weihe, 2003).
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as described by the DSM-IV manual dentifies lack of empathy as one of the key factors in characterizing this disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). It states that individuals with this disorder “generally has a lack of empathy and difficulty recognizing the desires, subjective experiences, and feelings of others” (p. 659). Gilgun (1988) described narcissism as a focus on the self so intense that it precludes consideration of the feelings and choices of others and which at times causes direct and/or physical harm to others.
Wiehe’s (2003) study suggests that empathy deficiencies in general account for parents InaDlllty to perceive ana lae Ty emotions In tnelr cnl aren ana t empathy also serves as a mechanism for terminating aggressive behavior before injury is inflicted on the object of the aggression; in their study the object being a child. LeTourneau (1981) found that parents who are limited to their empathic ability to perceive their child’s needs, intentions, or feelings were more likely to respond aggressively in conflict situations.
Other studies have also suggested that the more narcissistic the parent the more likely they were to commit an aggressive act towards their child if they saw their child as a threat to their own self esteem (Aoki, Fukushima, Iwasaki, & Kikuchi, 2006). The proposed study is designed to look at the areas previous research has yet to examine. In Besser and Priel’s (2010) study they identified how achievement and interpersonal oriented threats affected grandiose and vulnerable narcissist individually when the threat was inflicted by a romantic partner and/or coworker.
Weihe’s (2003) study suggests that empathy serves as mediator between narcissism and aggression and that a lack of empathy from a parent could lead to their inability to perceive child’s perspective. Therefore the proposed study will examine narcissistic parents, both vulnerable and grandiose, ersus non narcissistic parents and how hypothetical agentic and communal threats inflicted by their child affect their empathetic and aggressive reaction after threat is inflicted.
Grandiose narcissist should have a lower amount of empathy and a higher amount of aggression than a non-narcissist after an agentic threat is inflicted, whereas a vulnerable narcissist should have a lower amount of empathy and a higher amount of aggression after a communal threat is inflicted. Methods Participants Approximately 100 parents with children in the local school districts will participate in the experiment. Participants will respond to a call for volunteers to take part in a study of personality and behavior.
Procedure Participants will follow similar procedures found in Besser and Priel’s (2010) study but will be modified to fit the purpose of study. The participants will be asked if they would be willing to complete a questionnaire about personality and behavior. All participants will be told of their right to leave the study at any time and that their identity in this experiment will remain anonymous. The study will be separated into two different sessions. The first session will take place at the beginning of the week nd the second session 5 days later.
In the first session participants will report to a psychology laboratory and they will be informed that this is a study of relationship between parent’s personality and behavior towards their children. They will then complete a measure of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism in the form of a questionnaire that contains other unrelated personality questions as well. In the second session the participants will each be randomly assigned to 3 possible conditions in the form of hypothetical scenarios in a vignette.
These hypothetical scenarios contain situations that are intended to evoke an agentic threat, a ommunal threat, or no threat inflicted by their child. After reading the vignette of the hypothetical scenario the participant will be asked to complete a survey describing how they feel at the moment towards their child in response to the hypothetical scenario. The survey will contain measures of empathy and aggression towards child as well as other questions to avoid suspicion from participants. After completing Dotn sessions tne partlclpants will De given a written aeorlenng aoout tne study. Measures Communal and Agentic Threats and Non threats.
The participant will be randomly ssigned to the 3 different conditions created by the experimenter. They are meant to induce, in the experimental condition, either an agentic threat or a communal threat, and in the control condition a non-threat. Participants assigned to either the agentic or communal threat conditions will be instructed to “Imagine that you ask your child to do their homework and they respond with x. ” X, depending on the condition, will either be the agentic or communal induced threat inflicted by the child. In the non-threat condition participants were asked to imagine generic non- threatening information about the child. or the four scenarios, see the Appendix). Grandiose Narcissism. Grandiose narcissism will be measured using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; . Raskin & Hall, 1979, 1981). The NPI is a 40-item forced choice measure that measures grandiose narcissism in a nonclinical population (e. g. , “l will never be satisfied until I get all that I deserve. “) This scale will be included in a larger questionnaire along with the vulnerable narcissism measure to avoid suspicion from the participants of the true purpose of the study. Vulnerable Narcissism. Vulnerable narcissism will be measured using the 10-item
Hypersensitivity Narcissism Scale (HSNS; Hendin & Cheek, 1997). The participants will respond to the measure on a five point Likert-type scale labeled by 1: Strongly Disagree and 5: Strongly Agree to item (e. g. , “My feelings are easily hurt by ridicule or by the slighting remarks of others. “). The HSNS will be included along with the NPI in the questionnaire. Empathy. The 19 self-rating item Basic Empathy Scale will be used to measure empathy in the experiment. The participants will respond to the measure on a five point Likert-type scale labeled by 1: Strongly Disagree and 5: Strongly Agree.
The BES measures both cognitive and affective empathy and was revised by experiment to fit parent’s empathy towards child (e. g. , I can often understand how my child is feeling even before they tell me; I don’t become sad when I see my child crying. “). Empathy will be measured in the form of a survey, along with other distracting items, after the participant has finished reading one of the three hypothetical scenarios. Aggression. Aggression will be measured using the 17 self-rating item Parental Aggression toward the Child scale (CCAP, 2000). It evaluates abusive behavior toward the child on a 5 point Likert-type scale labeled 1:
Very Unlikely and 5: Very Likely. The items were revised by the experimenter to fit reaction of parents towards a threat inflicted by their child in the hypothetical scenarios, as well as, to form a more realistic and common form of aggression towards child. They were asked to respond how likely they would react or do the x items after they have read the scenario (e. g. , Yell at your child, Ignore your child if he/ she starts crying. ). Aggression will be measured at the same time as empathy in the same survey along with the other unrelated items to disregard participants from true purpose of study.
Predicted Results As can be seen in Table 1, in the agentic threat condition those who are high in grandiose narcissism are expected to have a lower empathetic and higher aggressive reaction towards their child than non-narcissist. This is suggested because grandiose narcissist tend to value agentic traits more than communal traits (e. g. independence, assertlveness, ana competent). laDle 2 represents tne expected results Tor tnose In the communal threat condition. Vulnerable narcissist are expected to have a lower empathetic and higher aggressive reaction towards their child than non-narcissist.
This is because vulnerable narcissists rely on external feedback from others to maintain self-esteem. Overall non narcissist are not expected to show higher empathetic and lower aggressive reaction to both the agentic and communal threat. APPENDIX. Scenarios for the Agentic Threat, Communal Threat, and Non Threat Condition Agentic Threat Communal Threat Non Threat Imagine your child’s school day routine. They wake up, brush their teeth, and eat breakfast then head off to school. When they return from school your child wants to go out and play with his/her friends, but you know he/she has homework.
You ask our child to first to do their homework before they go out and play. Their response to your request, “l don’t want to! Why should I listen to you? ” Imagine your child’s regular school day routine. They wake up, brush their teeth and eat breakfast then head off to school. When they return from school your child wants to go out and play with his/her friends, but you know he/she has homework. You ask your child to first to do their homework before they go out and play. Their response to your request, miou’re mean! I hate you; you never let me do anything! ” Imagine your child’s morning school day routine.
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