Monday, March 5, 2007

Narcissism: Studies Claim it is a Problem for Generation Y

Have you ever watched an episode of Fox’s American Idol and wondered to yourself, “Is he serious!?” You know who I am referring to; the guy who steps on to the stage, opens his mouth, and completely butchers a perfectly good Sinatra song with his voice that sounds remarkably like the shrieks a dying hyena. What would make someone with such an obvious deficit in singing ability, think that they could honestly be America’s next big star? Well, according to Jean Twenge (seen below), a professor of San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me (seen to the left), the reason can be attributed to a large increase in the rate of narcissism in today’s youth, that was a direct result of being brought up in an environment, known as the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, in which children were constantly being told that they were “special” and that they should always “believe in themselves.” Now, according to the analysis examined by Twenge and colleagues, of the responses of 16,475 college students across the United States who filled out the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006, this generation of youths is facing a plethora of problems. Twenge noted that people high in narcissism lack empathy for others, are aggressive when insulted, seek public glory and favor self-enhancement over helping others look good. Narcissists are also more likely to be materialistic and to seek attention and fame. "Narcissism feels good and might be useful for meeting new people or auditioning on American Idol," said study co-author W. Keith Campbell, University of Georgia psychology professor and author of When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself. "Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others."

As a current member of this “narcissistic” generation, I felt my insight could be of some worth. Personally, I strongly disagree with Professor Twenge’s argument. In my own experience I have not encountered the narcissism epidemic she describes. Most of the individuals that I know of this current generation are rational and objective young adults who are aware of their abilities and limitations. Obviously individuals vary, but collectively I see no obvious difference in narcissism from one generation to another. And to be honest, I am a bit suspect of any study not being published in a scientific journal subjected to peer review. Instead Professor Twenge publishes her findings in a press release and her blog, coincidently just in time to help promote the launch of her new book. As expected the media quickly jumps on the story and before you know it she is on the Today Show, Tucker Carlson, and various local radio shows plugging her new book. Does any of this necessarily refute her theory? Of course not, but it is something that should be kept in mind when considering her study and motives.

Now as far as examining more concrete facts, Professor Twenge states, “These findings make me very, very worried. I’m concerned we are heading to a society where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships.” First, as I mentioned earlier, Twenge’s findings are based upon a very specific group of the population; college freshmen. Every scientific researcher knows that in order to get an accurate representation of a population, one must collect data from a large random sample otherwise you are left with a sample that possesses some common variable that could be misleading. To make such extreme assumptions about the general population of youths of today based upon the sample provided in Twenge’s study would be erroneous. Second, the facts about today’s youth simply do not support Professor Twenge’s theory. Things viewed as obvious indexes to narcissism, such as violent crime, pregnancy, abortion, and drug abuse rates have all significantly dropped statistically in young people since the 1980s. Many surveys also indicate that today’s youth are very close to their parents and family. Record numbers claim they "share their parent’s values" or "have no problem with any family member." Increasingly many say they want to live near their parents later in life. This would seem very unlikely if parents and family members were left to deal with unruly, selfish, narcissistic teenagers.

Frankly, with all the misleading broad assumptions, I feel that Professor Jean Twenge ought to change the title of her book from Generation Me to Generalize Me.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm confused, for two reasons.

First, almost all psychology studies use college students as subjects. It's extremely rare for research psychologists to collect data from a random sample of the population. There's just not enough grant funding. So this study isn't at all unusual in using college students. As a psych scholar, you should know this.

Second, pregnancy, abortion, and getting along with parents are not correlated with narcissism. And drug use, which is connected to narcissism, is up since the 1990s. What are "obvious indexes to narcissism"? Materialism, inflated expectations, and uncommitted sexuality, all of which are up.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective. I have more experience with severely narcissistic people than I ever intended to. Though not scientific, I've notice from the early 80's there has been a significant reduction in long term voluntary applied focus (no reward other than "genuine")! I've also noticed that children are staying children much longer (maturity, responsibility, "total" independence from family as in NOT). I deal with many people and have lived in many areas (both US and foreign) and have seen this lechery proliferate. And this thing about being with family being an indication of "selflessness". Try again. First of all, speaking against somebody you're using is not a good narcissist. I see narcissists as people who want to feed "me" using "you". The narcissists I know... stay very close to their family (as one of their parents told me.... "They were joking about inheriting my house when I die"... and he replied "Who's going to pay the bills"?) Giving to "me" doesn't necessarily equate to "earn". One must be careful with "groups" as well. A union if often rooted in agenda and the participants have surprising similar flaws (seen or unseen).

Anonymous said...

This study is obviously bias, this only pertains to the white population. As for the minority's we probably will never have this problem. For that once you are conceived, your automatically considered trash. In fact, when your born the doctor (if your lucky enough to have one present) will give you a complimentary but mandatory stamp on the forehead. Stating in very large font, that "your not going to do SHIT with your life, and that you'll be lucky to even become a piece of SHIT" : ) : ) : ) The best thing to do in these situations, is to pray that you can at least get a respectable degree in the Custodial Arts!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!! : ) : ) : )

From a member of GENERATION Y.

Anonymous said...

Hah have you been to a upscale mall lately lady?

It's insane... The Uhg boots, the northface jackets.

Ask any kid without the appropriate "wear" and you'll see just how this new bastard generation is.

Yes they are close to their parents as they control the cash being doled out.

And it is mostly white kids with parents that make good money.

Your obviously spending too much time on campus reading books.

Go watch MTV for an hour to see what they are watching and head to a white mall or a movie theater in an affluent area. You'll be shocked by the sheer amount of ME kids running around.

djknight said...

"As a current member of this “narcissistic” generation, I felt my insight could be of some worth. Personally, I strongly disagree with Professor Twenge’s argument. In my own experience I have not encountered the narcissism epidemic she describes. Most of the individuals that I know of this current generation are rational and objective young adults who are aware of their abilities and limitations. Obviously individuals vary, but collectively I see no obvious difference in narcissism from one generation to another."

What bubble are you living in? And your opinion matters why? If you are indeed a narcissist, then wouldn't you be defending yourself? A big duh right there. What you said is dumb. Evidence is what matters, not, "Well eh, mmmph, well how dare you..., well I never, I don't notice anything wrong with my great friends. Nerdy words blah blah listen to me I must be right because I'm oh so eloquent and my grammar is great."

Get real.

Anonymous said...

I, generally, disagree with you.

At best I think you could argue that not all of Generation Y exhibits narcissistic traits; however, as another member of this generation, I do feel that narcissism is widespread amongst the age group (though I do not feel that it manifests itself in many individuals at severe levels).

Personally, I have a lot of single-child friends who, in my opinion, do seem to (generally) hold me-first and non-compromising attitudes more frequently or at more visible levels. In a similar way, this generation seems to have adopted a pro-individuality culture, while, simultaneously, they have lived lives of relative comfort (which, in my opinion begins the cycle of value-alteration/perception-alteration that pulls Generation Y into narcissistic behavior). Think of it this way who is going to appreciate the product (in a deeper sense) the developer or the consumer?

Without doubt, debate over Generation Y is going to be long and complex, and nothing said should be stated with much authority as classification itself is often times what this generation fights against.

The professor's book release date and the date of her blog post might really be a good indication that she was trying to promote her book; however, at the same time, I don't think this means we can necessarily write off what she says...because, looking around these days, humility seems to be becoming a scarcer occurrence.

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Anonymous said...

What bubble are you living in? And your opinion matters why? If you are indeed a narcissist, then wouldn't you be defending yourself? A big duh right there. What you said is dumb. Evidence is what matters, not, "Well eh, mmmph, well how dare you..., well I never, I don't notice anything wrong with my great friends.

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Anonymous said...

I generally disagree with you :

Well said. Was going to take a moment to toss my point of view in the ring however after reading your post I see the words much more eloquently arranged to share my opinion as well. Thank you.

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