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, self-absorbed, and narcissistic.
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.
Of course childfree people can be narcissists. I may be a narcissistic childfree person myself. Let’s say for the sake of argument that not having children is a symptom of narcissism. That raises at least two logical questions:
1.) What harm have I done by not having children? Put another way, isn’t it better for everyone if a narcissist does NOT have children? Seems to me it’s better for society if people with personality disorders were not the ones raising children, which leads me to point #2:
2.) Is having children really proof that one is NOT a narcissist? I think we all know people who have narcissistic parents. The person reading this may have totally self-centered parents. I have not heard any common reasons for having children that did not sound selfish. The most common reason given for having kids is “I wanted to.” Sound pretty damn self-centered to me….
Hi Scott, As always, good points. Agreed. Mine is just that pieces out there talk like not wanting to raise kids means you are a narcissist, when in reality as you describe, a narcissist can have kids, not have kids (by choice or not). The authors of the Narcissism Epidemic go into how there seem to be more in younger generations and the negative consequences of this for themselves and society. Will the 4 out 5 still have kids? And half of the 1 that does not have them do so out of choice? Stay tuned.