The study reaching this suggestion aimed to discover the origins of over the top selfishness.
Researchers examined 565 children in Netherlands who were surveyed over the course of a year and a half as well as their parents.
Children that received attributes such as “more special than other children” and as kids who “deserve something extra in life” by their parents were more likely to have higher scores in tests of narcissism compared to children who received no such accolades.
Scientists also measured how much parents overvalued their children in questions such as “My child is a great example for other children to follow.”
At the beginning of the study, children were between seven and 11, and their parents were surveyed four different times at six months apart.
“Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others,” said study co-author Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “That may not be good for them or for society.”
Parental warmth and encouragement may be a better strategy than inflating the ego, the study found.
Youths who said they were often told they were loved by their parents were more likely to show high self-esteem but not narcissism.
Children with high self-esteem did not see themselves as more special than others, but agreed with statements that they were happy with themselves and liked themselves as they were.
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal.