A question we often get from people who come from a narcissistic family of origin is, “Can an entire family be full of narcissists?”

So, I decided to dive into the research, and here’s everything I found.

A family can be full of narcissists or members with narcissistic traits if:

  • Learned behaviors are passed down from parents.
  • A cycle of needing attention and approval exists.
  • Competitive dynamics dominate family interactions.
  • Emotional connections between members are weak or absent.
  • Narcissistic values are prioritized and celebrated.
  • Members use defense mechanisms to cope with dysfunction.

In this article, I will walk you through these to help you understand how an entire family can be full of narcissists or, at the very least, narcissistic individuals.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

Learned Behavior from Parents

One reason a family could be full of narcissists is that children often learn how to act from their parents. 

If a parent shows narcissistic behaviors, like always wanting to be the center of attention or not caring about others’ feelings, their kids might start acting the same way.1 

A narcissistic parent showing narcissistic behaviors in front of their own child.

It’s like when you learn to cook by watching your mom or dad in the kitchen. You pick up their habits, good or bad. 

So, if kids see their parents acting selfishly and not considering others, they might think this is the normal way to behave. 

They grow up copying these actions because it’s what they know.

Suggested Reading: Can Narcissism Be Passed Down?

A Cycle of Needing Attention and Approval

Another reason could be that in some families, everyone is fighting to get attention and approval. 

This can happen if the parents didn’t give enough love and support to their children. 

When kids don’t feel loved, they might do whatever they can to get noticed, even if it means putting others down or only thinking about themselves.2 

A kid putting another kid down because they need attention and approval.

It’s like when someone is really thirsty, they’ll try to drink up all the water they can find. 

In families like this, everyone might become more focused on themselves and how to get what they need because they all feel thirsty for attention. 

This can create a cycle where everyone acts narcissistically, always trying to fill that need for attention and approval.

Competitive Family Dynamics

Sometimes, a family can be full of narcissists due to highly competitive family dynamics.3 

In some families, there’s a constant push to be the best, whether in sports, academics, or career success. 

This drive to outdo each other can stem from parental pressure or a family culture that values achievement over empathy and cooperation. 

It’s similar to being on a sports team where only the top scorer gets praised, and everyone else is overlooked. 

In trying to win this family competition, members may develop narcissistic traits, such as a lack of empathy, a need for admiration, and a focus on personal success at the expense of others. 

They learn to see relationships as tools for personal gain, leading to a family atmosphere where narcissistic behaviors are not just expected but encouraged.

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

Lack of Emotional Connection

A family might also be full of narcissists if there’s a lack of genuine emotional connection and communication among its members.4 

When family relationships are superficial and emotions are not openly discussed or validated, members may struggle to develop empathy and understanding for others. 

This environment fosters a focus on the self, as individuals may feel they can only rely on themselves for emotional support. 

It’s like living in a house where everyone has their own room and never comes out to share meals or talk. 

Over time, this isolation can lead to narcissistic traits, as family members become more self-centered and less attuned to the needs and feelings of others. 

Normalization of Narcissistic Values

A family might become a breeding ground for narcissism if there’s a normalization of narcissistic values, such as material success, physical appearance, or social status, above all else. 

When a family overly emphasizes these superficial measures of worth, members may adopt a narcissistic worldview that prioritizes these values over deeper, more empathetic human connections. 

A member of narcissistic family displaying a narcissistic worldview in a conversation with another person.

It’s like being taught that the only way to score points in life is by looking the best, having the most money, or being the most popular. 

This focus can lead members to develop narcissistic traits as they strive to meet these external standards of success, neglecting the development of genuine self-worth and empathy for others. 

Defensive Mechanism Against Dysfunction

In families where there’s a lot of conflict, abuse, or dysfunction, becoming narcissistic might be a defensive mechanism for some members.5 

If expressing vulnerability or emotions was met with ridicule, punishment, or neglect, the family members might turn to narcissism as a way to protect themselves. 

It’s like building a wall to keep out anything that might hurt you. 

By focusing on themselves, needing constant admiration, and showing little empathy, they create a buffer against the emotional pain of their family environment. 

This defensive posture can be contagious, as other family members adopt similar behaviors as a way to cope with the toxic family environment, leading to a family full of individuals displaying narcissistic traits.

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you observed these dynamics in a family before?

Or perhaps you’re wondering how to navigate relationships when narcissistic traits are prevalent within your family.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. BetterHealth Channel. Family violence and children. BetterHealth Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/family-violence-and-children# ↩︎
  2. Newport Institute. (2022. November, 1). How Having a Narcissistic Parent Impacts Young Adult Mental Health. Newport Institute. https://www.newportinstitute.com/resources/mental-health/narcissistic-parent/ ↩︎
  3. Mandelbaum, Arthur. (1980). “Family Characteristics of Patients with Borderline and Narcissistic Disorders.” Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 44(2). ↩︎
  4. Dr. Jonice Webb. (2018. August, 23). The Sad Connection Between Childhood Emotional Neglect and Narcissism. Dr. Jonice Webb. https://drjonicewebb.com/the-sad-connection-between-childhood-emotional-neglect-and-narcissism/ ↩︎
  5. Young JC, Widom CS. “Long-term effects of child abuse and neglect on emotion processing in adulthood.” Child Abuse Negl. 2014 Aug;38(8):1369-81. ↩︎

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