The Time article on “The Childfree Life” has generated a lot of digital buzz. Some of it has brought back discussion on the myth that those who have no children by choice are selfish and self-absorbed. As this opinion piece says, the childfree life “serves as a prime example of the narcissism and selfishness that run rampant in today’s society.”
Would the authors of the nonfiction book The Narcissism Epidemic agree? Not likely…
What is their book about? Authors Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell chart how America’s “culture of self-admiration” has reached heights (or depths). Twenge, the author of Generation Me, and Campbell, a narcissism expert, say full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder is more common than you’d think, affecting as many as 1 of every 16, and 1 of 10 in their twenties. They ground this position with a wide range of research.
But far more disturbing, the authors contend, is evidence of narcissism in the broader population. From the social networks like Facebook and MySpace, to a “self-branding” celebrity culture, to phenomena such as a service allowing people to hire fake paparazzi to follow them around on a night on the town, America is in the grip of a pervasive “flight from reality” that hinders us from successfully dealing with things that really matter. The Narcissism Epidemic profoundly examines how our culture has come to this point, and offers ways to deal with the problems narcissism causes.
It evidences that not having children by choice is a kind of “prime” example of this “epidemic” – the determining factor does not rest in whether one chooses to have children or not. It involves many social and cultural factors, including the ways in which children can be parented that foster a “me me me” orientation in today’s society.