Male and female narcissists

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Are there differences between narcissistic men and narcissistic women?

All narcissistic individuals, whether male or female, continuously manipulate their environment in order to exhibit grandiosity, self-importance and superiority. Yet, despite their grandiosity, narcissists' crave attention and admiration.

This apparently paradoxical situation comes about as a result of the fact that the grandiose and bloated narcissistic behaviour is not grounded in an objective reality. As a result, both male and female narcissists continually feel a need to reinforce their fragile self views. But narcissistic men and narcissistic women often use different ways to achieve the same aim.

Narcissistic concerns might manifest differently in each gender due to differences in development and socialization1

Morf and Rhodewalt2 concluded that men tended to use excessive effort to assert their superiority over others, whereas women's narcissistic behavior tends to take on diferent forms. Feelings of exploitiveness and entitlement are less integrated into the construct of narcissism for females relative to males.3

Some of the possible differences that have been identified between male and female narcissists are described in the following table.

Characteristic Description
Self-handicapping* Only male, but not female narcissists, employ heightened self-handicapping.4
Interpersonal competition Only male, but not female narcissists, show a preference for a task framed in terms of interpersonal competition.5
Self-enhancement Only male, but not female narcissists, self-enhance when modesty is called for.6

Females are more likely to enhance their social power through means such as seeking affiliations with "glamorous" others.7

Exploitativeness and entitlement Feelings of exploitativeness and entitlement are less integrated into the construct of narcissism for females relative to males.8

* Self-handicapping is a face-saving tactic. It is described as a course of action to protect or enhance one's self-evaluation in the face of an evaluation threat. People usually strive to appear competent, but when they expect that they are unlikely to perform well, they may try instead to avoid the impression that they are incapable by self-handicapping. Note that it is done to protect or enhance one's self-evaluation. Male narcissists in particular self-handicap to avoid feeling incompetent.

The reason for the differences described in the above table may be related to a failure in empathic responding by the mother, resulting in both males and females developing a deficient internalized structure of self. Strategies developed to compensate for it may take on different forms in the males and female. For example, mothers may be responding to boys as a significant other figure (e.g. husband), but to girls as an extension of self. As a result, each gender uses different psychological resources to cope with the same deficient internalized structure of self.9

It appears, therefore, that there are differences between male and female narcissists. Male narcissists tend to make excessive efforts to assert their superiority over others. This behavior, to explicitly dominate and otherwise behave in line with their self-interests, is socially acceptable for males in much of western society. However, such behavior by females would reap fewer benefits. They endeavour to achieve their narcissistic goals through more subtle, indirect, and affiliative means that conform with expectations of their sex role and the pressure of different social constraints.10

If you want to know more about the differences between narcissistic men and narcissistic women, read Narcissism: Behind the Mask.

1, 2, 10 Morf, C.C. and Rhodewalt, F. (2001), Unraveling the Paradoxes of Narcissism: A Dynamic Self-Regulatory Processing Model, Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.177-196.
3 Morf, C.C. and Rhodewalt, F. (2001), Unraveling the Paradoxes of Narcissism: A Dynamic Self-Regulatory Processing Model, Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.177-196.
4 Rhodewalt, F., Tragakis, M.W. and Finnerty, J. (2001), Narcissism and self-handicapping, Linking self-aggrandizement to behavior, Department of Psychology, University of Utah.
5 Rhodewalt, F., Tragakis, M.W. and Finnerty, J. (2001), Narcissism and self-handicapping, Linking self-aggrandizement to behavior, Department of Psychology, University of Utah.
6 Morf, C.C., Ansara, D. and Shia, T. (2001), The effects of audience characteristics on narcissistic self-presentation, University of Toronto.
7 Morf, C.C. and Rhodewalt, F. (2001), Unraveling the Paradoxes of Narcissism: A Dynamic Self-Regulatory Processing Model, Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.177-196.
8 Tschanz, B.T., Morf, C.C. and Turner, C.M. (1998), Gender diferences in the structure of narcissism: A multi-sample analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Sex Roles, Vol., 38, pp. 863-870.
9 Philipson, I. (1985), Gender and narcissism, Psychology of Women Quarterley, Vol. 9, pp. 213-228.

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