Are My Children Safe with a Narcissist?

Parents who have come to realize that their spouse has NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) are most likely aware that they are being verbally and emotionally, and sometimes physically abused. They have asked if their children are safe with a narcissist in the home (spouse or partner), in other words, does the narcissist just take his rages out on the adult victim or will he abuse the children as well?

A parent should be alarmed about the narcissistic rages and it effects, whether it is the psychological effects of witnessing the rages being perpetrated against the other parent or whether the children are victims themselves. Emotional, verbal and physical abuse all are painful and have long-lasting effects. During certain phases of the NPD- child relationship, the child may indeed be the victim of verbal and potentially physical abuse. They are always at risk for emotional abuse (withholding love, silent treatment, undermining events that are important to the child, not meeting the child’s needs for sympathy or empathy, etc.).

Unfortunately, there is more to be alarmed about than just the narcissistic rages. Narcissists are truly only concerned with themselves and cannot show genuine empathy. They have a very limited capacity for giving unconditional love to their children. The psychological effects of not being able to genuinely love their children or empathize with their children are significant causes for concern.

What are some of the psychological effects?

Narcissistic parenting creates serious emotional damage to children. People, whether children or adults, believe what they are told about themselves if they are told enough times; the NPD parent will repeatedly criticize and belittle their children or treat them as if they were invisible. Children raised by narcissistic parents grow up in a state of denial, thinking they are always to blame and all problems are their fault, and that they are simply not good enough. They believe that if they were good enough, they would have been loved by that parent. While this is a ‘cognitive distortion’ about self, the many messages collected throughout childhood have a lasting effect on adult children of narcissistic parents. “Will I ever be good enough?” “Am I lovable?” “Am I only valued for what I do and how I look?” “Can I trust my own feelings?”

Another effect of having a narcissistic parent: narcissism tends to breed narcissism. The good news is that only a minority of the children of narcissistic parents become narcissists themselves. This may be due to a genetic predisposition or to different life circumstances (for example, not being the firstborn). Despite the small number, it is interesting to note that most narcissists have one or more narcissistic parents.

What are the Stages of the NPD-Child Relationship?

For a narcissist, people are either sources of Narcissistic Supply (and then, idealized and over-valued) or do not fulfill this function (and, therefore, are valueless). The narcissist gets all the love that he needs from his own self. From the outside world he needs approval, admiration, adoration, and attention. He does not require, nor does he seek, his spouse’s love or to be loved by his children. They are simply an audience for him- he wishes to impress them, shock them, threaten them, inspire them, attract their attention or manipulate them.

When a narcissist has his own children, he is likely to go through three phases:

Stage One: When a child is first born, he views his children as a threat to his Narcissistic Supply (such as for the attention of his spouse). They are intruders in his life and the narcissist will belittle them, hurt (even physically) and humiliate them and then, when these reactions prove ineffective or counter-productive, he retreats in to his own fantasy world. A period of emotional absence and detachment ensues.

The narcissist will react this way to the birth of his children or to the introduction of any new attention-getter to the family unit (even to a new pet!).

The narcissist perceives his child to be in competition for limited Narcissistic Supply and it is assigned to the role of the enemy. Where the expression of his aggression is impossible– the narcissist will remove himself. Rather than attack his child, he sometimes will immediately detach himself emotionally and become cold and uninterested; sometimes he re-directs his anger at his spouse (the more “legitimate” target).

However, other narcissists see the opportunity in the event. They seek to manipulate their partner by “taking over” the child. These narcissists monopolize their newborn children. This way they indirectly benefit from the attention directed at the infants. The offspring become vicarious sources of Narcissistic Supply and proxies for the narcissist.

An example: a narcissistic father who closely identifies with his child secures the grateful admiration of the mother (“What an outstanding father he is”). He also assumes all the credit for baby’s achievements. This is a strategy that the narcissist makes use of in many of his relationships.

Stage Two: As his children grow older, the narcissist begins to view them as consistent and acceptable sources of Narcissistic Supply. His attitude becomes completely transformed. He encourages them to idolize him, to adore him, to be awed by him, to admire his deeds and capabilities, and to learn to blindly trust and obey him.

It is at this stage that the risk of child abuse is heightened- from emotional incest to outright physical incest. The narcissist is “auto-erotic”, e.g. he is the preferred object of his own sexual attraction. His children share his genetic material. Molesting or having intercourse with them is as close as the narcissist gets to having sex with himself.

Stage Three: As his children mature, they begin to balk at playing the pawns in his chess game. They hold grudges against him for what he has done to them in the past when they were too young to resist and for the way he used them. They can now gauge his true importance, talents or achievements which, typically, are far below the claims that he makes.

This brings the narcissist full circle back to the first stage. Once more he perceives his children as threats. He becomes disillusioned and begins to devalue them, criticizing, judging, blaming, humiliating and belittling them. He loses all interest in them and the family unit, becoming emotionally remote, absent and cold, and rejecting any effort to communicate with him. He often will cite work or life pressures, and the preciousness and scarceness of his time.

He feels burdened, cornered, and suffocated and blames the family members. He wants to get away, to abandon his commitments to people who have now become totally useless (or even damaging) to him. The narcissist does not understand why he has to support them, or to suffer their company, and he believes himself to have been deliberately and ruthlessly trapped.

The narcissist rebels either with passive-aggressive behavior (refusing to act, or by intentionally sabotaging the relationships) or actively (being overly critical, aggressive, unpleasant, verbally and psychologically). Eventually, the narcissist gets what he wants and the family that he has created disintegrates.

References:

  1. http://samvak.tripod.com/faq22.html
  2. http://samvak.tripod.com/faq5.html
  3. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201103/the-six-faces-maternal-narcissism
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About Alexander Burgemeester

8 Responses to “Are My Children Safe with a Narcissist?”

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  1. Joy says:

    There are many adult sons and daughters now who stepped into the abuser/Narcissist’s role and hate the targeted parent. They awaken every day with hate that has absolutely no basis or logic. The hate originates not from any experience with the targeted parent- or from something the targeted parent directly did, but from the lies the alienator told the son or daughter. They quote things they were told and discuss things the targeted parent supposedly did, like it was yesterday and they were there. People often do not realize they were not even born at the time, and they are merely repeating what they were told. They continue to drain the targeted parent of all emotional energy, making them even physically ill. They spend their time doing on-line stalking of the targeted parent, contacting people the targeted parent knows and telling lies, ruining any positive or achievement the targeted parent may have, name calling and bashing on-line,threatening the targeted parent with a Restraining Order if the targeted parent even speaks to them and they will harm the targeted parent’s loved ones. In reality, many adult children have not seen their alienated, targeted parent in 25+ years. There are so many targeted parents fearful of their adult children. There are just no words to adequately describe the sadness, sorrow and loss.

  2. Ally says:

    I am currently fighting a battle with my ex mother in law over visitation with my children. I only want her to have supervised access as I have been bullied by her for many years! She abused her own children all their lives. I will not allow this to happen to my children. My husband past away years ago and now she wants unauthorised access to my children.
    I cannot and will not allow that. She has taken me to court and I am doing my best to fight this but feel petrified that I may lose this and she will be able to abuse my children. Any thoughts or advice?
    I am in the UK.
    Thanks

    • Dawn says:

      Ally,

      I am in a very similar situation. I am currently battling my boyfriend’s mom (we are in our thirties, not teens). Two counselors have both warned me she is dangerous and not to leave my 18 month old with her. My boyfriend is disturbingly unwillingly to tell his mom no or even remotely not let her have what she wants. He is now fighting for custody, we still live together in my home. He wants custody so that he can drop our child off at his mom’s whenever she demands it. I offered to have his mom come see the baby but she said she hates me too much to come over. Oh, and she told my boyfriend she would disown him if she doesn’t get her way. Unfortunately, that wan’t true because they are still plotting. I am very curious how things are for you?

      • Lisa says:

        Why is your boyfriend still living in your house? Ask him to leave, and if he refuses, get the police to remove him. If he is plotting against you with his mother, you need to create distance between you and him. If you cannot afford an attorney, Google legal aid for your city and talk to someone about this. I would be afraid the leave him alone with your toddler too, because he might run off him/her or allow his mother access when you not there. Trust your gut- don’t trust either of them. Protect your baby and yourself.

  3. Ciara says:

    I am currently going thru a custody case with my childs father. For the longest I had to literally beg him to be in her life. Of course at this time I had no clue what he had but knew my life was being flipped upside down. I was doing things out of my character and so I decided to move away to get away from him and gain control of my life. Soon as I move I find out he petitioned the court for me to move back and custody. The very same thing I begged him for he turned around and is fighting me for. He recently had been caught with drug possesion thank God but I am sure he’s not done. Our last trail he sat on the stand and lied with no guilt or concious. He hired a private investigator and even got my other childs dad to turn against my child. His other girlfriends call me for support because every other day because of his mental torture they are suicidal. But none of them will stand up for me in court for fear of retialation. I just wish someone would believe me and look into it.

  4. Donna Ward says:

    My daughter could have her picture on this page as the poster child for NPD. My problem is that she has three children 8y/o, 5y/o and 2 week old. I have gone thru the patterns of her erratic and “crazy’ behavior and her favorite form of torture with me is with-holding the children from me. When her wave of erratic behavior passes and I am able to see them, the oldest relays how horrible she talks about me. I fear for him especially because he “takes up for me” and I worry that puts him in danger. I tell him not to say anything but he is very attached to me and I worry. Does anyone have suggestions to help

  5. NSK says:

    My husband and I have been dealing with his narcissistic ex wife for almost 5 years now. They have a teen age daughter together who is 16 and a half. This woman is hell bent on destroying the relationship between father and daughter and its just disgusting. This is his only child and he loves her more then anything, but she continues to take mothers side on every issue to the point that we cant even trust her in our house alone for fear she will go thru files or try to gather information against us like a little spy, yet we know nothing about her life with her mother, every thing is a secret.. this woman ruined longtime friendships of my husband, she has made up lies and stories that are very believable but not true in any way. I just wonder if it will ever end! She is re-married and puts herself high on a pedestal claiming she has moved up in the world because her new husband makes more money then us. My husband and I try and avoid any contact and we certainly do not discuss any of this with his daughter, I just wonder when and if she will ever stand up to her mother and tell her off. Something tells me thou that we are going to have to deal with this situation well beyond the kid turning 18.. Any advice? Thanks

  6. Upsetanon says:

    I wish I could disagree with this, but unfortunately I can’t. Whether my ex is a narcissist or not, who knows. But what I do know, is that he is capable of lying, to even great extents, even in a court of law. He has also been violent, and for this he has been convicted. He can even lie about the birth of our child and what happened to the court, and yet I have midwife and medical notes (and my own memory) that beg to differ. Everything I have done has been criticised, from paying bills, to friends, to family, to how I bring up the children. Not one area of my life has been left unturned from his negativity. This person is now trying to get full custody, I really do hope someone can see through the lies, because it will kill me inside to have to send my children with such a person.

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