New study evaluated more than 20,000 college students between 2002 and 2007

Story Highlights

  • New study results
  • What is narcissism?
  • About Twenge
New study evaluated more than 20,000 college students between 2002 and 2007
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Researchers with San Diego State University and the University of South Alabama released a new study today, finding that narcissism in college students is increasing faster than previously thought, especially among college women.

Jean Twenge, SDSU psychology professor, and her co-author, Jason D. Foster, found that when increases were similar among ethnic and racial groups, narcissism in young women increased more than in young men, suggesting that recent cultural changes have affected girls and women more.

"The narcissism epidemic seems to have hit girls especially hard," Twenge said. "From Internet sites to reality TV, they see narcissistic behavior portrayed as normal. There have been so many triumphs for women over the last few decades, so it's distressing to see this negative trend."
Jean Twenge
SDSU psychology professor Jean Twenge
However, today there are three times as many young people versus older people who have experienced the disorder. Only three percent of people 60 years or older experienced symptoms of the disorder, even though they have more years to develop such problems.

New Study Results

The new study evaluated more than 20,000 college students between 2002 and 2007 and found a faster rate of increase in narcissistic traits overall than an earlier study that evaluated students between 1982 and 2006.

"The increase in narcissistic traits is just the tip of the iceberg," Twenge said. "Even more disturbing is how narcissism and attention-seeking have become rampant in our culture, from girls sending naked pictures of themselves on cell phones to plastic surgery rates more than doubling in just ten years."

The new research, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Research in Personality, is consistent with a recent study that found nearly 10 percent of people in their 20s had experienced symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder at some time in their life.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is an inflated sense of self linked to overconfidence, materialism, lack of empathy for others and relationship problems.

According to Twenge, narcissism can be thought of as a continuum; although many people have the narcissistic personality traits assessed in the study, only a small minority could be diagnosed with the clinical disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

About Twenge

Twenge is author of "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" and "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable than Ever Before."
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