Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists….

“We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students’ NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques” in preschool: “I am special, I am special. Look at me.”

It’s difficult for me to imagine that college kids now could be any more self-centered than they were 25 years ago…. but I wouldn’t complain if parents stopped expecting me to applaud every time they brought their little darlings through the door. If nothing else, I like the cranky tone of Professor Twenge.

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  1. Angel H. Wong says:

    “Special” is another word for “Retard.”

  2. Mark Derail says:

    With the high school drop-out rate so high? Even in Canada?
    Kids making it to college, must be special.

    From the point-of-view of a parent struggling to get the kids to even finish high school, both of them with high IQ’s, if such a tactic “I’m special” works, then good.

    IMO, kids have too many distractions with Internet, overwhelmed with information, they don’t have patience to sit through classes with cranky and lousy teachers.

    In the teacher’s defense, I would surely become cranky myself teaching to teens, lousy pay, 25+ students per class, sleeping on their desks.

    KB – that’s part of the magic for young kids, school is a scary place. It’s a game, a scam, that hopefully those little darling won’t figure out until too late – after they’ve passed high school.

    This thread should be a fun read.

  3. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    There’s a threshold for self-esteem, above which IMO it’s not good for you. But the original premise, that kids with bad self-esteem don’t succeed at much of anything, is still true.

  4. The self-esteem movement began as a New Age construct and was (and still is) actively promoted as an important aspect of an education in California and elsewhere. There is no need for learning once you gain self-esteem is kind of the underlying message.

    If you want to see the crux of the problem go to the National Association for Self-Esteem website here.

  5. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    Interestingly enough, the ‘don’t spank / discipline your kids’ regime originated in the mid-to-late ’60s, which means that the children raised under said regime would have been entering the adult world around the late ’80s, which, by an incredible co-inky-dink, just happens to be the same period that saw the arrival in force of the arrogant, greedy, egocentric shitweeds who’ve inspired the timeless sentiment, “Die, yuppie scum!”

    And if you think that’s coincidence, please post a picture of the turnip truck you fell from.

    Humility is what’s prescribed for fostering social responsibility, willingness to learn, acceptance and tolerance of others who are unlike ourselves, and of course, compassion and empathy. All traits, you might note, that the world needs now. (Despite what Burt Bacharach and Hal David might’ve thought… (li’l joke for pop-savvy boomers there))

    This study is spot on. Who will pay attention, though?

  6. Gig says:

    I was behind an SUV the other day with not one or even two of those stickers saying little Johnny play whatever sport, but four. The driver could not have possibly been able to see out the rear window.

    Add to that the “My Kid is an Honor Student” bumper sticker and I have no doubt that this kid thought he was the center of the Universe.

    While children should know that they are special to their parents they should also be taught that they may not be special to everyone else.

  7. TheGlobalWarmer says:

    “My Kid is an Honor Student” – heh, heh.

    I bet you could cause a lot of accidents if you drove around with a “My Kid is a Retard” sticker. 😉

    (Hmmm, there might be a money making opportunity here selling those…)

  8. Dave says:


    In our day we had it tough!

    When I was a boy, we had to live, all 42 of us, in a small paper bag in the middle of a septic tank. Each night, after cleaning up the tank with our tongues, and a meal of cold gravel, Father would come home from the mine, lash into us with a bread knife and dance around on our graves singing Halalulah!

  9. When I was a kid we didn’t have rocks!

  10. Dennis says:

    Sorry, Chuck Palahniuk said it best:
    “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”

    People need to remember this.

  11. Dugger says:

    Love the Python quote! From “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” when I first heard it.

  12. Osmodious says:

    Being an avid observer of human behaviour and having once spent a few ‘lost years’ working in a mall witnessing the youth of today, all I can say in response to this study is “DUH!”

  13. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    #13 – pedro

    You got it – almost… Everybody’s identical equal to everybody else – except minorities are more equal. Got it, you imperialistic oppressor of indigenous peoples, you? 🙂

  14. Mr.Newton says:

    #1.i was born in 1945 with a vision defect,i have spent my whole life trying to tell people that i am not stupid, i just can’t see as well as others,,long story,,61yrs long,,anyway,i was never called special, but i needed special paper, a special magnifier, a special desk, was told i would never get beyond grade 8,,so i went on to grade 12, then in my mid 30’s i went to college for 2 yrs, & got my diploma,,,i was special but not in the way i think you are talking about here,,,sucks to be special when you are a child..
    i’m still fighting that retard label..i have an average IQ,but my poor eyesight makes it difficult to function,
    like i said “not stupid, just can’t see”

  15. OhForTheLoveOf says:

    #5 – Interestingly enough, the ‘don’t spank / discipline your kids’ regime originated in the mid-to-late ’60s, which means that the children raised under said regime would have been entering the adult world around the late ’80s, which, by an incredible co-inky-dink, just happens to be the same period that saw the arrival in force of the arrogant, greedy, egocentric shitweeds who’ve inspired the timeless sentiment, “Die, yuppie scum!”

    While I won’t grant the premise that “don’t spank” and “don’t discipline” are the same idea… I do find that I am spending an unexectedly high amount of my time agreeing in large part to many of the statements Lauren makes… which worries me.

    I think if we avoided talking about the relative merits of Macs and PCs, Lauren and I could get through a casual lunch without throwing punches 🙂

  16. Lauren the Ghoti says:


    Only if you’re buying…

  17. Steve Jobs says:

    10. I will never be able to look at my two sons “Itchy” and “Scratchy” in the same way.

  18. Butts says:

    Does “I am special, I am special. Look at me” maybe have something to do with the rudenass of drivers these days? “So I might have run the stop sign . . . so what?” Another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences!

  19. Redwolf says:

    I saw Professor Twenge interviewed on the ABC Evening News last night, and either she’s way behind the curve on this, or I live in an extremely enlightened part of the world. Living in Pennsylvania, I find the latter unlikely.

    Our community baseball league stopped giving out trophies to every kid about 3 or 4 years ago. While the local school district tries to recognize the unique individuality of every child, it can be EXTREMELY competitive. And it pays off with championship athletic teams and students going off to Ivy League institutions and University honors programs across the county.

    Also, I personally know college students who are going to Florida for spring break – not to party in the sun, but to build Habitat for Humanity housing.

    I really think there must be something wrong with the methodology of the study. Or it’s just the Mark Twain principle.

  20. doug says:

    “The Incredibles” needs to be mandatory viewing. Quoth Dashell Parr:

    “Saying everyone’s special is just another way of saying no one is.”

  21. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    #21 – doug

    Ex-ackly. Like the Lake Wobegon kids who are “all above average.”

  22. Gwendle says:

    I am just a fresh 24 years old, but I can never recall anytime my father called me special. He did make sure that when I messed up that I was the following:
    A dipshit
    Attempting to stuff head into ass

    And many other wonderful things. I still came out pretty vicious. Must be from my mom’s side.

  23. Brew Kline says:

    I used to think that my kid was special until a few months ago after his first piano recital when his mother asked him if he had seen us in the seats from the stage. He said he only saw ‘mommy’ even though I was sitting right next to him. I was carrying him on the street when this conversation took place. I remarked that I was a ghost. All of sudden out of nowhere he swung his arm and fisted me square in the left eye. POW! Damn it, I saw stars. What the hell happened?!?

    My kid is not special anymore after that episode. He went against authority– he’s super special.

  24. Can someone translate. for me, some of the points being made? I’m not getting a lot of these posts. 20 being at the top of the list and 24 not being far behind.

  25. Greg Allen says:

    As a parent, I can say this is a fine line to walk: raising your kids to have good self-esteem but not be narcissists. Young kids are natural narcissists and I think it helps to not feed this too much. However, insecurity is horrible, too.

    Honestly, I don’t know if we are doing the best think but here’s what we do:

    We use lots of “I language” (i.e. “You’re #1 with us” ) rather than globalizing it to “you’re the best kid in the world.”

    I say again: I have no idea if this will work! This parenting thing is pretty much a learn-as-you- go deal.

  26. noname says:

    Where to begin, where to end.

    1.) Families are getting smaller, don’t need the kids to support the farm. Kids don’t have to work.
    2.) Two incomes are now needed to support a family.
    3.) Can’t afford or will not have a stay at home Mom.
    4.) Parents don’t have time to be parents, easier to just be friends.
    5.) TV is a baby sitter. TV has endless commercials to entice kids.
    6.) Dr Spock
    7.) Teacher Unions and public schools
    8.) Most new housing developments don’t have a area large enough for the kids in the neighbourhood to play team sports
    9.) Most houses don’t even have a back yard.
    10.) Parent are scared to let their kids play outside.
    11.) All kids have to have a cell phone, to text message at any moment
    12.) Kids are status symbols instead of investments.

    13 to Million other reasons. But do we really Care, really? Because if we really cared, we would do things differently. But we don’t care and we don’t want to change.

    Why again are we trying to challenge the status quo???

  27. Mr. Fusion says:

    #26, Greg,

    I understand your concerns. With our young, only child, I make sure to let her know how proud I am of her accomplishments. I try not to praise her looks, as pretty as she is, although I do discuss with her why a certain top might look better with certain pants.

    Today, at 7 1/2, she seems well adjusted and very self confident. There is little she won’t talk to me about. Her “hip hop” music is one of those subjects.

  28. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    #28 – Mr. Fusion

    Are you serious? You actually expose a 7-year-old child to the moral carcinogen of hip-hop? Your own child?

    That is pure criminally irresponsible parenting, a.k.a. child abuse.

    Maybe you’re hoping one day she can grow up to be a ho’ in P. Diddy’s posse, and drink all the Cristal she wants right outta the bottle, hmm?

    And that, folks, in a nutshell, is why, whilst despising 90%+ of what Republicans stand for, I’ll still feel like popping your face inside out if you dare associate me with such idiocy by calling me a ‘liberal.’

  29. Brew Kline says:

    #25. It was a joke based on a true experience which I thought was relevent to the topic of “calling your kid special”. There was the setup (the first paragraph), the point of view (absurdity) and then the twist/punchline (…he’s super special).

    Maybe I did blow $400 for comedy class…


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