Are narcissistic men really misogynistic?

What defines female narcissism

Selfishness, striving for power and showing off

“Of course, these averages don't mean that every man is more narcissistic than every woman. There are indeed narcissistic women. The entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, for example, was very charismatic, but at the same time shamelessly exploited investors and employees, which is typical for narcissists, "says Emily Grijalva about the results. »Society is more likely to accept egoism, striving for power and showing off in men, since these characteristics contradict the image of women, who are considered modest and caring.« Katharina Geukes also considers the lead of men in narcissism to be overestimated: »The gender difference is relative stable over the lifespan, but not as large as one might think. Contrary to what the stereotype of the narcissistic man suggests, the differences are rather small. "

The personality researchers Paul Costa, Robert McCrae and Antonio Terracciano published an important study in the field in 2001. The scientists used personality profiles of 23,000 men and women from 26 different countries (including India, Germany, the USA, Peru, South Africa and Russia) with a common questionnaire. In doing so, they discovered a small, statistically significant gender difference in the typical character traits: women were on average more affectionate, friendlier, but also more fearful and sensitive to their own feelings than men. On the other hand, they rated themselves as more assertive and more open to new ideas. The female participants were therefore ahead in the personality facets of tolerance, introversion and neuroticism, i.e. emotional lability. The males were less compatible, less neurotic, and more extroverted. The result largely corresponds to common gender stereotypes, but is based exclusively on the self-assessments of the test subjects. However, other studies support this finding. Psychologists working with Jeffrey Gagne from the University of Texas at Arlington recorded the temperament of 714 three-year-olds in 2013. Parents and investigators who analyzed the children's behavior rated boys on average as more active, while they rated girls as more shy, but more controlled and focused. The same effect was found in opposite-sex twins who grew up under almost identical conditions. This suggests that men and women differ in character very early on - or that this is at least perceived that way, which could also be due to cultural role expectations.

"One can assume that the narcissistic personality is hereditary up to 50 percent"
(Claas-Hinrich Lammers, psychiatrist)

The fact that women are less likely to display the typical grandiose narcissism, but rather a vulnerable narcissism, probably has to do with their general tendency towards introversion and neuroticism. »Vulnerable narcissism and neuroticism overlap strongly. Those who are neurotic worry about all sorts of things. In the case of vulnerable narcissism, the worries relate primarily to maintaining a positive self-image - that is, how one is received by others. What is hen and what is egg in this case, however, or whether vulnerable narcissism and neuroticism have a common origin is still difficult to say, "explains Katharina Geukes. But it is possible that innate temperament lays the foundation for what kind of disorder one later develops. »The genetic part in the development of personality disorders is generally underestimated. In the case of the narcissistic personality, one can assume that up to 50 percent of it is hereditary, ”explains Claas-Hinrich Lammers. In addition, there are initial indications that different factors in childhood favor the development of the two forms. While excessive pampering and admiration of the child by the parents evidently promotes grandiose personality traits, an inconsistent parenting style could lead to fluctuating self-esteem and play a role in vulnerable narcissism. Methodologically, however, such findings on the influence of earlier experiences on the development of disorders stand on shaky legs, because researchers usually have to rely on the stories of the patients.

There is probably another reason why women are less likely to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. "There is a clear gender bias in the diagnosis of personality disorders," Lammers points out. In other words: psychologists and psychiatrists are only human and allow themselves to be influenced by common clichés. If the same case report is presented to specialists and the patient is named Anna and Paul, Paul is more often diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder, Anna with a histrionic personality disorder. The term comes from "Histrionen", the actor in ancient Rome. Those affected are drawn to the stage accordingly. They love to be the center of attention, are dramatic and capricious, are self-centered and easily offended. "If you take a closer look at the classic macho, there is often more of a histrionic than a narcissist," notes Lammers. The histrionic personality has in common with the narcissistic personality the increased need for recognition.

Gender stereotypes in diagnosis

The similarity of these two clinical pictures shows how difficult it is to clearly identify a specific personality disorder. It can therefore easily happen that practitioners are guided by the patient's gender when making a diagnosis: the typical narcissist is a man, the histrionic and borderliner is a woman. The latter personality disorder typically manifests itself in strong fluctuations in social behavior, mood and self-perception, which are stressful both for the person themselves and for their social environment. For a long time, borderline was considered a feminine phenomenon. “In fact, more women are diagnosed - but more recent studies show that borderline occurs in almost the same proportion in men. The fact that affected men seek treatment less often is probably related to gender-typical role expectations, ”says Astrid Schütz.

A team from the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster led by Michael Grosz and Mitja Back has discovered another characteristic of female narcissism. It developed a questionnaire that measures various facets of the property particularly precisely and, among other things, ascertains in which areas of life they come into play. Previous studies had shown that two aspects can be distinguished: self-esteem and devaluation of others. The behavioral scientists in Münster assessed these two for intelligence ("I am a genius" versus "Most people are stupid"), attractiveness ("I am very good-looking" versus "Most people are not very attractive"), social dominance (" I'm very assertive "versus" Most people are weaklings "), social engagement (" I'm extremely helpful "versus" Most people are ruthless egoists "), and a neutral category (" I'm great "versus" Most people are Loser").