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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Adolescence, Volume 29, Issue 1, February 2006, Pages 53–71
A two-step cluster analytic strategy was used in two studies to identify an empirically derived typology of narcissism in late adolescence. In Study 1, late adolescents (N=204N=204) responded to the profile of narcissistic dispositions and measures of grandiosity (“superiority”) and idealization (“goal instability”) inspired by Kohut's theory, along with several College Adjustment Scales and a measure of pathology of separation-individuation. Cluster analysis revealed three clusters: covert narcissists (N=71N=71), moderate narcissists (N=55N=55) and overt narcissists (N=74N=74). Moderate narcissists had significantly lower means scores on indices of anxiety, relationship problem, depression, esteem- and family problems and pathology of separation-individuation. The overt and covert clusters showed comparable levels of dysfunction on most indices of adjustment. This general pattern was replicated in Study 2 (N=210N=210). Moderate narcissists showed a uniform profile of good adjustment, whereas covert and overt narcissist clusters showed a pervasive pattern of dysfunction. Results support the claim that narcissism has “two faces” and that a moderate degree of narcissism is associated with fewer adjustment problems or psychological symptoms. Directions for future research are discussed.
Narcissism has long been a central category for understanding important aspects of adolescent personality development. Indeed, it is widely believed in both the popular and theoretical literatures that adolescents are particularly susceptible to narcissistic tendencies, and that the management of narcissism may well differentiate normal from dysfunctional adolescent development (Bleiberg, 1994). The source of these narcissistic tendencies has been theoretically linked to the normative developmental task of separation-individuation that requires the adolescent to shed parental dependencies, exercise autonomous agency and become an individuated self but within the context of enduring relational commitments. Narcissistic reactions are said to emerge as a concomitant of this process to ward off the mourning reactions that attend the loss of childhood identifications and to fortify the adolescent against the vulnerabilities common to this developmental transition (Blos, 1962). On this interpretation narcissism serves an adaptive function as the adolescent wrestles with the twin demands of assertion and connectedness. The possibility of adaptive and healthy narcissism is also evident in Winnicott's (1965) object relational theory and in Kohut's (1977) self-psychology. For Winnicott (1965), self-absorption and a sense of subjective omnipotence can provide the psychological aliments that support self-extension, ambition, creativity and growth. Kohut (1977) argued that normal self-development could follow either a “grandiose” line, characterized by exhibitionism, assertiveness and ambition (“I am perfect, and you admire me”) or else an “idealizing” line, characterized by an idealization of figures and goals (“You are perfect, and I am part of you”). Both theorists suggest that narcissistic “illusions” can be used to creatively sustain psychological growth and self-development (Mitchell, 1988). A narcissistic stance may be particularly adaptive for meeting the developmental challenges of late adolescence and emerging adulthood (Wink, 1992a). Of course, lurking within reach of healthy and adaptive uses of narcissism are its dysfunctional and maladaptive aspects. Kernberg (1975) argued that the grandiose self oscillates between cycles of self-admiration and devaluation of others to protect against dependency and disappointment, and tends more toward dysfunction and pathology than it does healthy adaptation. Moreover, dysfunctional narcissism can take overt and covert forms that reflect either two facets of the same individual (Rhodewalt & Morf, 1995) or else two expressive “types” of narcissism (Wink, 1996). Hence, alongside overt displays of haughty grandiosity, invulnerability and entitlement there could reside covert and hypersensitive feelings of anxiety, inferiority and worthlessness. Recent research has attempted to document types of narcissism in community samples of emerging and young adults. Wink (1991a) subjected 6 MMPI narcissism scales to a principal components analysis that resulted in two factors, which he labelled Vulnerability-Sensitivity and grandiosity-exhibitionism. Both factors were correlated with certain core features of narcissism, such as conceit, entitlement, self-indulgence, fragile self-esteem, and exploitative interpersonal relationships. But the two factors also appeared to correspond to the distinction between overt (grandiosity-exhibitionism) and covert (vulnerability-sensitivity) narcissism. Hence, on the basis of MMPI descriptors, the overt narcissist was described as a grandiose exhibitionist who is self-indulgent, manipulative, driven by power and by a strong need to be admired. The covert narcissist was described as being insecure, hypersensitive and vulnerable to feelings of inferiority. As Wink (1996, p. 167) put it, “narcissistic fantasies of power and grandeur can equally well lurk behind a bombastic and exhibitionistic facade as one of shyness, vulnerability and depletion.” Not surprisingly both forms of narcissism were “associated with psychological problems and difficulties in effective functioning” (Wink, 1991, p. 596), although the covert form appears to be more dysfunctional than the overt form (Wink, 1996). A somewhat different typology emerges when one examines observer-based Q-set ratings of the narcissism prototype rather than MMPI-derived factor profiles. Wink (1992a) and Wink (1992b) identified three types of narcissism using Q-methodology, which he denoted as willful, hypersensitive, and autonomous. When correlated with standard personality inventories the willful narcissist was described as one who is a self-assured, rebellious exhibitionist who displays overt grandiosity, poor impulse control and a strong power orientation. The hypersensitive narcissist was described as one who is overtly inhibited, introverted and lacking in self-confidence, which masks a covert sense of self-importance and entitlement. According to Wink (1992a), the willful and hypersensitive types are strongly congruent with overt and covert forms of narcissism, respectively. Finally, the autonomous narcissist was described as creative, empathic, and achievement oriented, which reflected a “healthy variant of narcissism” ( Wink, 1992b, p. 51). These studies document the general clinical-developmental claim that there are different types of dysfunctional narcissism that can be usefully described in terms of overt and covert characteristics. Moreover, the overt–covert forms of narcissism are evident even though quite different methodologies (principal components analysis, Q-methods) and data sources (MMPI-scales, observer ratings) were used across these studies. The Q-set studies also revealed a type of narcissism (“autonomous”) that is compatible with positive adjustment and mental health. This form of narcissism was associated with the self-investment that supports creative achievement, inner-directedness, self-reliance and empathy. While it is customary, then, to speak of the dual nature of narcissism in terms of its overt and covert forms, or, alternatively, in terms of functional and dysfunctional forms, it might be more accurate to say that there are three types of narcissism evident in unselected samples: overt, covert and adaptive. Although theoreticians often assert that narcissism is not dysfunctional, per se, and that adaptive forms of narcissism are possible, most of the extant research has focused on dysfunctional narcissism (for an exception, Rose, 2002). Indeed, as Kohut (1986, p. 61) pointed out, “the contribution of narcissism to health, adaptation and achievement has not been studied extensively.” Perhaps one reason for the relative absence of studies on the adaptive features of narcissism is the fact that the extant measures of narcissism are derived either from the MMPI or clinical diagnostic criteria of narcissistic personality, or else purport to measure self-pathology. Although one would not expect to find much evidence of adaptive functioning using scales designed to gauge clinical defects in the self, it is of interest to note that at least some of these measures or subscales have been linked with positive adjustment. The subscales of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, for example, appear to be differentially correlated with indices of mental health (Raskin & Novacek, 1989). Similarly, Robbins and Patton (1985) noted that their measure of Kohut's notion of grandiosity (“superiority scale”) and idealization (“goal instability scale”) might “actually represent healthy forms of narcissism” (p. 226, emphasis in original) rather than mild forms of self-immaturity. Moreover, a recently designed scale, the Profile of Narcissistic Dispositions ( Taylor, 1995), an assessment that purports to measure normal and healthy narcissism, nonetheless includes subscales (e.g. Manipulativeness) that seem to point more toward maladaptation. In the present studies, we attempted to explore the heterogeneity of narcissism in a novel way. Using cluster analytic techniques, and many of the extant measures of narcissism, we hoped to identify a theoretically useful typology of narcissism. In contrast to previous research that correlates narcissism factor scores or Q-set ratings with personality inventories, we attempted to examine the relationship between narcissism clusters and multiple indices of adjustment, such as anxiety, interpersonal problems, depression, self-esteem disturbance, and family problems. We also explored the relationship between the narcissism clusters and pathology of separation-individuation, which is the principal ego developmental process that is thought to invite narcissistic defenses. We anticipated that our analytic strategy would reveal three forms of narcissism suggested by the clinical developmental literature.