ArticlePDF Available

In Defense of Self-Love: An Observational Study on Narcissists' Negative Behavior During Romantic Relationship Conflict

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Research suggests narcissists respond negatively to ego-threats stemming from both negative evaluative feedback (Bushman & Baumeister,1998) and negative social feedback (Twenge & Campbell, 2003). In the current study, we used an observational methodology to examine whether narcissists also respond negatively to romantic relationship conflict. Multi-level analyses revealed that people high (vs. low) in narcissism were observed by independent coders as engaging in significantly more negative behaviors (i.e., criticizing, name-calling, insulting) during a conflict with their romantic partner. Post-conflict, narcissists reported feeling less committed to their relationships, while reporting that their partners felt more committed to their relationships. Together, these results suggest that narcissists self-protectively derogate relationship partners both during and after conflict as a way to defend against relationship-threats
Content may be subject to copyright.
This article was downloaded by: [University of New England]
On: 04 February 2014, At: 07:31
Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered
office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Self and Identity
Publication details, including instructions for authors and
subscription information:
http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/psai20
In Defense of Self-Love: An
Observational Study on Narcissists'
Negative Behavior During Romantic
Relationship Conflict
Julie Longua Petersona & Tracy DeHartb
a Department of Psychology, University of New England,
Biddeford, ME04005, USA
b Department of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago,
IL, USA
Published online: 30 Jan 2014.
To cite this article: Julie Longua Peterson & Tracy DeHart , Self and Identity (2014): In Defense of
Self-Love: An Observational Study on Narcissists' Negative Behavior During Romantic Relationship
Conflict, Self and Identity, DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2013.868368
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2013.868368
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE
Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the
“Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,
our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to
the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions
and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,
and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content
should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources
of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,
proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever
or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or
arising out of the use of the Content.
This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any
substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,
systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &
Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-
and-conditions
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
In Defense of Self-Love: An Observational Study on
Narcissists’ Negative Behavior During Romantic
Relationship Conflict
Julie Longua Peterson
1
and Tracy DeHart
2
1
Department of Psychology, University of New England, Biddeford, ME 04005, USA
2
Department of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Research suggests narcissists respond negatively to ego-threats stemming from both negative
evaluative feedback (Bushman, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism,
self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence?
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,75, 219 229) and negative social feedback (Twenge,
J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2003). “Isn’t it fun to get the respect that we’re going to deserve?”
Narcissism, social rejection, and aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,29,
261272). In the current study, we used an observational methodology to examine whether
narcissists also respond negatively to romantic relationship conflict. Multi-level analyses revealed
that people high (vs. low) in narcissism were observed by independent coders as engaging in
significantly more negative behaviors (i.e., criticizing, name-calling, insulting) during a conflict with
their romantic partner. Post-conflict, narcissists reported feeling less committed to their
relationships, while reporting that their partners felt more committed to their relationships.
Together, these results suggest that narcissists self-protectively derogate relationship partners both
during and after conflict as a way to defend against relationship-threats.
Keywords: Narcissism; Romantic relationships; Threat; Self-enhancement.
The research on narcissism and romantic relationships has revealed a complex picture.
On the one hand, narcissists successfully resist doubts about both a current romantic
partner’s love (Foster & Campbell, 2005) and a potential dating partner’s interest
(Rhodewalt & Eddings, 2002). On the other hand, narcissists’ romantic relationships are
characterized by less commitment, less accommodation (Campbell & Foster, 2002), and
less forgiveness following a partner transgression (Exline, Baumeister, Bushman,
Campbell, & Finkel, 2004). While such research highlights the complexities inherent to
narcissists’ love lives, compared to research on narcissism and ego-threat, there has been
relatively little research investigating how narcissists respond to difficulties in their current
romantic relationships. In fact, much of the research on narcissists’ reactions to
relationship-threat has focused on threats occurring outside of their ongoing romantic
relationships (e.g., Konrath, Bushman, & Campbell, 2006; Nicholls & Stukas, 2011;
q2014 Taylor & Francis
Correspondence should be addressed to: Julie Longua Peterson, Department of Psychology, University of
New England, 11 Hills Beach Road, Biddeford, ME 04005, USA. Email: jpeterson6@une.edu
The current research was part of the first author’s dissertation. We thank the Advanced Doctoral Fellowship
and the Research Mentoring Program (RMP) from Loyola University Chicago for providing the funding for this
research.
Received 9 July 2013; accepted 18 November 2013; first published online 29 January 2014.
Self and Identity, 2014
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2013.868368
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
Rhodewalt & Eddings, 2002; Twenge & Campbell, 2003; cf. Exline et al., 2004; Foster &
Campbell, 2005), and we know of no research to date that has used an observational
methodology to study the responses of narcissists in threatening relationship interactions.
To that end, the goal of the current observational research is to explore how narcissists
navigate conflict in their ongoing romantic relationships.
Narcissism and Threat
Research on narcissism and ego-threat has revealed that narcissists are highly sensitive
to criticism. For example, narcissists respond to failure feedback with more anger
(Stucke, 2003) and aggression (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998) than their non-narcissistic
counterparts. Moreover, narcissists are willing to derogate both high and low status
evaluators who deliver unfavorable interpersonal judgments (Horton & Sedikides, 2009),
rate evaluators as less competent following negative interpersonal feedback (Kernis &
Sun, 1994), and derogate similar others who perform better than them on a social
sensitivity task (Morf & Rhodewalt, 1993). Research looking specifically at social
rejection has revealed that narcissists are both angry and aggressive when excluded by a
group (Twenge & Campbell, 2003). Perhaps not surprisingly, when relationship partners
become the source of a self-esteem threat, narcissists appear willing to jeopardize these
interpersonal bonds in the pursuit of self-enhancement. Nicholls and Stukas (2011) found
that after being outperformed by a friend, narcissists actively decrease closeness with that
friend. As a result of such self-regulatory strategies, narcissists’ interpersonal lives appear
riddled with feelings of hostility and interpersonal conflict. Longitudinal research suggests
that narcissistic entitlement is related to chronic conflict over a 10-week period—and this
relationship is completely mediated by self-image goals, suggesting that the motivation to
maintain an inflated sense of self lies at the heart of narcissists’ poor relationship
functioning (Moeller, Crocker, & Bushman, 2009).
Narcissism, Romantic Relationships, and Threat
The literature on narcissism and romantic relationships suggests that narcissists navigate
their relationships in ways that help maintain positive self-views (Campbell, 1999;
Campbell, Brunell, & Finkel, 2006; Campbell, Foster, & Finkel, 2002; Campbell,
Rudich, & Sedikides, 2002). For example, narcissists prefer partners who are both
perfect and admiring, in part because narcissists believe these partners will enhance their
self-esteem (Campbell, 1999). Narcissists’ self-enhancement bias may also help them
resist romantic rejection. For example, narcissistic men recall their past dating histories
as being more successful than initial reports of these histories after learning that a
potential dating partner had rejected them (Rhodewalt & Eddings, 2002). Similarly,
when asked to list 10 reasons why their partners may not be committed to them,
narcissists report more difficulty generating this list and subsequently report less
relationship dysfunction (Foster & Campbell, 2005). Such findings seem to suggest that
narcissists may enhance relationship dynamics as a way to maintain feelings of self-
worth in response to romantic rejection.
While such findings point to narcissists’ potential for romantic-resilience in the face of
threat, it remains to be seen whether this type of resilience is evident in response to
relationship conflict. Because narcissists are less concerned for the well-being of their
partners (see Sedikides, Campbell, Reeder, Elliot, & Gregg, 2002), more concerned about
maintaining power and autonomy in their relationships (Campbell, Foster, et al., 2002),
and willing to derogate romantic partners in order to maintain positive self-views
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart2
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
(Campbell, Rudich, et al., 2002), conflict may provide a scenario in which narcissists rely
on relationship-damaging tactics to enhance feelings of self-worth. Consistent with this
reasoning, longitudinal research suggests that narcissists hold grudges against romantic
partners who hurt them (Exline et al., 2004). Moreover, self-report research investigating
how narcissists cope with romantic conflict has revealed that narcissists (as compared to
their non-narcissistic counterparts) report being less likely to respond to conflict by
discussing the conflict, remaining loyal to their partner, or refraining from negative
responses (Campbell & Foster, 2002). These latter findings seem to suggest that narcissists
will respond to conflict within a romantic relationship with the same negativity they
exhibit in other threatening interpersonal interactions (e.g., Moeller et al., 2009; Smalley
& Stake, 1996; Twenge & Campbell, 2003).
Present Research
The goal of the current research was to explore how narcissists respond to conflict in their
ongoing romantic relationships. We used an observational methodology to investigate the
relation between narcissism and observer-rated negative behaviors (e.g., criticizing,
complaining, name-calling, insulting) during a videotaped conflict discussion task.
In addition, we also included pre- and post-conflict measures of commitment to determine
if conflict influences how narcissists regulate closeness in their relationships. Because
research on narcissism and relationship-threat has revealed inconsistent results, we tested
two competing predictions. On the one hand, it is possible that narcissists will defend
against relationship threats by enhancing their relationships and drawing closer to their
partners. Such findings would be consistent with research suggesting that narcissists may
be buffered from the negative effects of relationship doubts by exhibiting less relationship
dysfunction (e.g., Foster & Campbell, 2005; Rhodewalt & Eddings, 2002) and with
research suggesting that people with more positive self-perceptions affirm their
relationships in the face of threat (e.g., Murray, Bellavia, Rose, & Griffin, 2003; Murray,
Rose, Bellavia, Holmes, & Kusche, 2002). Therefore, the relationship-enhancement
hypothesis predicts that narcissists will be observed engaging in less negative
behavior during conflict and will enhance their own commitment to the relationship
post-conflict.
On the other hand, it is also possible that narcissists will enhance the self at the expense of
their relationship. Research suggests that narcissism is associated with a willingness to
weaken bonds with close others in order to maintain inflated self-views (e.g., Nicholls &
Stukas, 2011; see also Sedikides et al.,2002). Moreover, some researchers have suggested that
narcissists’ positive self-evaluations mask underlying (and potentially implicit) insecurities
about self-worth—suggesting narcissists may protect the self from potential romantic
rejection by devaluing partners (see DeHart, Longua, & Smith, 2011; Morf, Horvath, &
Torchetti, 2011). Therefore, the self-enhancement hypothesis predicts that narcissists will
be observed as engaging in significantly more negative behavior during conflict and will
report significantly less commitment to their partners post-conflict as a way to enhance
the self.
Lastly, we asked participants to report on perceptions of their partners’ commitment to
the relationship both pre- and post-conflict. Predicting narcissists’ post-conflict
perceptions of their partners’ commitment also allowed for two competing predictions.
At first blush, it appears that narcissists’ penchant for admiration should prompt them to
maintain (if not exaggerate) their partner’s level of commitment after the conflict
interaction (see Campbell et al., 2006; Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001; Sedikides et al., 2002).
Because increases in perceived partner commitment enhance relationship- and self-
In Defense of Self Love 3
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
evaluations, such a prediction would be consistent with both the relationship-enhancement
and the self-enhancement hypotheses. However, previous research has revealed that
narcissists believe that close others view them as less positive, less agreeable, and more
concerned with power (Carlson, Vazire, & Oltmanns, 2011), suggesting narcissists are
aware of how others perceive them. Therefore, in the current study, it is possible that
narcissists who behave poorly during conflict (i.e., self-enhancement hypothesis) have
insight into the potentially negative relational consequences of this bad behavior—and as a
result may perceive their partners as reducing commitment to them post-conflict.
Method
Participants
A total of 204 undergraduate college students (102 couples) currently involved in a
monogamous romantic relationship of at least 2 months took part in a study on “Romantic
Relationship Interactions.” Potential participants did not know that they would be asked to
discuss a conflict in their relationship during recruitment. Instead, potential participants
were told that their participation “includes taking part in a videotaped discussion with your
romantic partner and filling out a series of questionnaires about yourself and your
relationship.” The students’ mean age was 20.73 years old (SD ¼1.52) and the average
relationship length was 19.95 months (SD ¼16.53). Of the 204 couples, 200 couples were
heterosexual and 4 couples were same-sex.
1
Participants received either monetary
payment or course credit for participating in the study.
Overview of Procedure
Couples participating in the study arrived at the lab and independently completed a series
of questionnaires, including demographic information and measures of narcissism,
pre-conflict own commitment, and pre-conflict perceived partner commitment. The last
item of the questionnaire packet asked each member of the couple to independently identify
an issue that was a recent source of major disagreement in their relationship. Partners
were then brought back together and the researcher randomly selected one of the topics
for the conflict discussion by flipping a coin (Powers, Pietromanaco, Gunlicks, & Sayer,
2006).
After the issue was chosen for discussion, participants were told to think about the last
major argument they had about this topic and then try to resolve it (adapted from Simpson,
Rholes, & Philips, 1996). Couples were told that though no one would be in the room
while their interaction took place, it would be videotaped and coded later. Following the
7-min discussion session, participants completed a measure of post-conflict mood and
interpersonal vulnerability. In addition, we reassessed participants’ own commitment and
perceived partner commitment, which allowed us to explore changes in feelings of
commitment from pre- to post-conflict assessments. Finally, a positive conversation task
was introduced to help couples recover from any negative affect left over from the conflict
discussion. In this 3-min discussion, participants were asked to tell one another what it is
they really enjoy about each other and their relationship. At the completion of the positive
conversation, task participants were compensated and fully debriefed about the nature of
the study. All participants were asked to sign a video release form if they agreed to have
their conflict discussion included in the study.
2
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart4
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
Measures
Narcissism
Narcissism was assessed with the 40-item narcissistic personality inventory (Raskin &
Terry, 1988). Participants indicated whether a series of statements were true or false (e.g.,
“If I ruled the world, it would be a much better place,” “I am going to be a great person,”
“I am more capable than other people”). The scale is coded so that higher scores indicate
higher levels of narcissistic personality (
a
¼.82).
Own Commitment
One item was used to assess participants’ own commitment to the
relationship. Participants indicated how committed they were to their current romantic
relationship on a scale from 1 (not at all committed) to 7 (very committed). Participants
responded to this item both before and after the conflict interaction.
Perceived Partner Commitment
One item was used to assess participants’ perceptions of their partners’ commitment to the
relationship. Participants indicated how committed they believed their partner was to their
current romantic relationship on a scale from 1 (not at all committed) to 7 (very
committed). Participants responded to this item both before and after the conflict
interaction.
Interpersonal Vulnerability
To determine whether narcissists felt as hurt by the conflict as their non-narcissistic
counterparts, a seven-item measure was used to assess feelings of interpersonal
vulnerability and rejection following the conflict interaction (adapted from Murray,
Derrick, Leder, & Holmes, 2008). Participants indicated how they felt directly following
the interaction (happy, angry, hurt, betrayed, included, rejected, disappointed) on a seven-
point scale (1, not at all; 7, very). Positive items were reverse scored such that higher
scores reflected greater feelings of interpersonal angst or vulnerability (
a
¼.93).
Affect
The positive and negative affectivity schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen,
1988) was used to tap participants’ mood following the conflict interaction. The PANAS
consists of 10 negative (e.g., irritable, jittery) and 10 positive (e.g., excited, strong)
emotions. Participants rated the extent that they felt each emotion at that moment on a five-
point scale (1, very slightly or not at all; 5, extremely). An index of positive affect was
created by aggregating the positive emotions (
a
¼.87) and an index of negative affect was
created by aggregating the negative emotions (
a
¼.87).
Coding Interactions
Videotapes were coded by trained observers. Before observers made any ratings, they
were given detailed definitions, instructions and training on the behaviors. Three
independent observers coded male behavior and three coded female behavior.
3
In addition,
because ratings of conflict behaviors were continuous, interrater reliability was established
by calculating intraclass correlations (ICCs). Two ICCs, one for males and one for
females, were computed for each behavior item being coded. The current study used a two
way mixed model, where raters are seen as a fixed effect and behaviors are seen as a
random effect (Shrout & Fleiss, 1979). A consistency computation was used to determine
In Defense of Self Love 5
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
if raters’ scores are correlated (as opposed to identical). Ratings by the three independent
observers were averaged to create a single rating for each behavior being coded. An ICC
score of .70 or higher was considered acceptable interrater reliability.
Negative Behaviors
Six items were adapted from the rapid marital interaction coding system (RMICS;
Heyman & Vivian, 2000) and used to assess negative behavior (e.g. criticized partner,
complained about partner’s personality or character, insulted or name called, snapped or
yelled, responded sarcastically). On a scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (nearly all the
time), independent observers rated the degree to which participants engaged in each of the
negative behaviors. ICCs ranged from .71 to .90. Negative behaviors were then combined
such that higher scores indicated greater observed negative behavior (
a
¼.85).
Positive Behaviors
Five items were adapted from the RMICS (Heyman & Vivian, 2000) and were used to tap
positive behaviors (e.g., expressed understanding or agreement, expressed caring or
concern, rephrased partner’s words, reassured love). On a scale ranging from 1 (not at all)
to 7 (nearly all the time), independent observers rated the degree to which participants
engaged in each of the positive behaviors. ICCs ranged from .72 to .86. The positive
behavior ratings were then combined such that higher scores indicated greater observed
positive behavior (
a
¼.66).
Results
Descriptive Statistics
Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations and correlations among key variables.
Gender was positively related to observer-rated positive behavior, suggesting that females
engaged in more positive behavior during the conflict. Narcissism was positively related to
observer-rated negative behavior and negative affect. Negative affect was negatively
related to both post-conflict own commitment and post-conflict partner commitment, but
positively related to interpersonal vulnerability. Observer-rated negative behavior was
inversely related to observer-rated positive behavior, suggesting that participants who
engaged in more negative behavior also engaged in fewer positive behaviors. Observer-
rated negative behavior was also negatively related to post-conflict perceived partner
commitment and positively related to interpersonal vulnerability. These later findings
suggest that participants who engaged in more negative behavior during the conflict
reported both more negative perceptions of their partner’s commitment and more
interpersonal pain post-conflict. Finally, post-conflict own commitment was positively
related to post-conflict perceived partner commitment and negatively related to
interpersonal vulnerability.
Multilevel Regression Analyses
Because the data contain two levels of analysis with individuals (Level 1) nested within
couple (Level 2), SAS PROC MIXED in SAS v9.2 was used to conduct multilevel
regression analyses (Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger, 1998; Nezlek, 2001). This approach allows
for the simultaneous estimation of regression equations for partners from the same dyad,
while controlling for the interdependence between observations. In the current study, all
mixed predictor variables (i.e., those predictors that have variation both within and
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart6
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
TABLE 1 Descriptive Statistics and Correlations
Variable name MSD12345678
1. Gender
2. Narcissism 20.89 6.32 2.07 –
3. Negative affect 1.70 .72 .08 .12
4. Observer-rated negative behavior 4.22 .61 .09 .28** .12
5. Observer-rated positive behavior 3.87 .52 .22** 2.11 2.07 2.44**
6. Post-conflict commitment 6.48 1.07 .09 2.09 2.39** 2.11 .21**
7. Post-conflict perceived partner commitment 6.35 1.12 2.02 .04 2.45** 2.22** .20** .57**
8. Interpersonal vulnerability 1.90 1.02 .08 .11 .74** .31** 2.26** 2.50** 2.62**
p,.10, **p,.01.
In Defense of Self Love 7
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
between dyads, such as narcissism) were modeled as Level-1 variables (Campbell &
Kashy, 2002).
4
Narcissism and Conflict Behavior
To determine if narcissists respond to conflict in ways consistent with the relationship-
enhancement or self-enhancement hypotheses, multilevel regression analyses were used to
examine the main effect of narcissism on negative behavior during the conflict interaction.
Gender (1, females; 21, males) was significantly related to conflict behavior and
controlled for in all analyses.
5
We also controlled for negative affect in order to ensure that
effects were due to levels of narcissism and not due to mood. Finally, we controlled for the
effect of observer-rated positive behavior on ratings of negative behavior (and vice versa).
Including these covariates in the model does not change the pattern of results presented. As
shown in the left panel of Table 2, multilevel analyses revealed a significant effect of
gender and positive behavior. Consistent with the self-enhancement hypothesis, there was
also a significant and positive main effect of narcissism, suggesting that narcissists were
observed engaging in more criticism and partner-derogation during the conflict interaction
when compared to their non-narcissistic counterparts. Finally, to explore whether
narcissism also predicted positive conflict behaviors, we predicted positive behavior from
the same predictors as above. Narcissism was unrelated to observer-rated positive
behaviors during the conflict interaction (see the right panel of Table 2).
Narcissism and Post-Conflict Measures
Two multilevel regression analyses were run predicting the post-conflict measures of own
commitment and perceived partner commitment from the effects of gender, negative
affect, and narcissism. These analyses also controlled for the relevant pre-conflict
relationship perception. For example, analyses predicting participants’ post-conflict
reports of own commitment controlled for pre-conflict reports of own commitment. The
multilevel regression analysis predicting post-conflict own commitment revealed
significant effects for negative affect and pre-conflict commitment. Consistent with the
self-enhancement hypothesis, there was also a marginally significant negative effect of
narcissism (see left panel of Table 3), suggesting that narcissists not only behaved more
negatively toward their partners, but actively reduced closeness with their partner post-
conflict by becoming less committed than they had been pre-conflict.
Conversely, the analysis predicting post-conflict perceived partner commitment
revealed that narcissism was significantly and positively related to perceptions of a
TABLE 2 Multilevel Regression Analyses for Narcissism Predicting Conflict Behavior
Negative behaviors (DV) Positive behaviors (DV)
btbt
Intercept 1.63** 33.22 2.04** 53.26
Gender .12** 4.57 .14** 5.03
Negative affect 2.01 2.29 2.01 2.24
Positive behavior 2.43** 26.00 –
Negative behavior 2.38** 26.51
Narcissism .01*2.10 (r¼.17) .001 .13 (r¼.01)
*p,.05, **p,.01.
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart8
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
partner’s commitment (see right panel of Table 3), suggesting that while participants high
in narcissism reduced their own commitment following the conflict interaction, they
reported that their partner had actually increased her or his commitment to the
relationship. Finally, multilevel regression analyses predicting post-conflict interpersonal
vulnerability revealed a significant effect of negative affect (b¼.94, t(187) ¼13.83,
p,.001), but a non-significant main effect of both gender (b¼.03, t(87) ¼13.83,
p¼.37) and narcissism (b¼2.001, t(175) ¼13.83, p¼.93). These results suggest that
narcissists reported feeling no more hurt by the conflict interaction than their non-
narcissistic counterparts.
Post-Hoc Analyses
Participants in the current study engaged in a positive conversation task after completing
the post-conflict measures. While this task was originally introduced to reduce the
negative effects of conflict, it allowed us to code participant behavior and run an additional
post hoc analysis to determine if the pattern of results observed for narcissists in the
conflict interaction was significantly different than the pattern observed in the positive
interaction. To do this, we created a difference score by subtracting negative behavior in
the conflict interaction from negative behavior in the positive interaction. Because a
positive difference score would indicate more negative behavior in the positive
interaction, we expected that narcissism would be negatively related to this difference
score. That is, we predicted that, as narcissism scores increased, the difference score would
become more negative, indicating that narcissism was associated with significantly more
negative behavior in the conflict interaction.
A multilevel regression analysis was run predicting the difference score from the main
effects of gender (1, females; 21, males), negative affect, and narcissism. This analysis
revealed a non-significant effect of negative affect (b¼2.01, t(165) ¼.26, p¼.79) and
a significant main effect of gender (b¼2.06, t(88.1) ¼22.37, p¼.02). As predicted,
narcissism was significantly and negatively related to the difference score (b¼2.01, t
(141) ¼22.22, p¼.03, r¼.18). This effect remains significant when covariates are
excluded from the model. The results suggest that narcissism is a significantly better
predictor of negative behavior following a negative interaction than a positive one,
supporting our argument that narcissists (vs. non-narcissists) engage in more partner
derogation during conflict. It should be noted, however, that an obvious limitation to this
post hoc analysis is the lack of counterbalancing of interactions. That is, the conflict
interaction always preceded the positive interaction. Nevertheless, this analysis confirms
TABLE 3 Multilevel Regression Analyses for Narcissism Predicting Post-Conflict Commitment
Post-conflict own
commitment (DV)
Post-conflict perceived
partner commitment (DV)
btbt
Intercept 6.51** 133.74 6.35** 91.02
Gender 2.05 2.90 2.004 2.08
Negative affect 2.40** 25.66 2.49** 25.16
Pre-conflict own commitment 2.86** 12.64 –
Pre-conflict perceived partner
commitment
– .59** 7.15
Narcissism 2.01
21.74 (r¼.13) .02*1.96 (r¼.14)
p,.10, *p,.05, **p,.01.
In Defense of Self Love 9
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
that narcissists behave more negatively during the conflict interaction than they do during
the positive discussion task—even when this positive discussion follows conflict.
General Discussion
To our knowledge, the current research is the first to use an observational methodology to
explore how narcissists respond to conflict in their ongoing romantic relationships.
Consistent with previous research suggesting that narcissists behave badly in response to
negative evaluative feedback (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998) and negative social
feedback (Twenge & Campbell, 2003), the current study revealed that narcissists also
behave badly in response to romantic conflict. Results indicated that participants higher
(vs. lower) in narcissism were observed engaging in significantly more negative behavior,
such as criticizing, complaining, insulting, and name-calling, during the conflict and
reported becoming less committed to their partners after the conflict. Given narcissists lack
of communal concerns (Sedikides et al., 2002; cf. Gebauer, Sedikides, Verplanken, &
Maio, 2012) and willingness to derogate close others in the pursuit of self-enhancement
(Campbell, Rudich, et al., 2002; Nicholls & Stukas, 2011), the current results both support
the self-enhancement hypothesis and fit well with the literature’s conceptualization of
narcissists as poor relationship partners (see also Campbell et al., 2006).
Despite this bad behavior, narcissists perceive their partners as becoming more devoted to
them over the course of the study. Narcissists’ simultaneous reporting of decreased own
commitment and increased perceived partner commitment may be one way narcissists
psychologically distance themselves from threatening partners (e.g., Morf & Rhodewalt, 1993)
while maintaining perceptions of power and grandiosity (e.g., Campbell, Foster, et al., 2002). In
perceiving greater commitment from a partner (whom they just derogated), narcissists may also
be engaging in some amount of self-deception. Research by Paulhus (1998) suggests that
narcissists may actually believe their own overly inflated self-evaluations. Moreover, while
narcissists are aware that close others perceive them less favorably than they perceive
themselves, they still incorrectly assume that close others perceive them in very positive ways
(Carlson et al., 2011). In relation to the current study, it is possible that participants high in
narcissism, accustomed to self-deception, may truly believe their partners have increased
commitment to them post-conflict, thus solidifying feelings of superiority. Although the current
study did not assess whether this process occurs automatically, it seems possible that decreases
in own commitment and increases in perceived partner commitment might be a nonconscious
or unintentional way for narcissists protect the self from relationship threats.
While such self-protective responses might prove successful in maintaining positive
self-views, these responses likely harm the relationship over the long term. For example,
research suggests that people who derogate or reduce closeness with partners in response
to perceived relationship threats may eventually elicit actual rejection from their partners
(e.g., Downey & Feldman, 1996; Downey, Freitas, Michaelis, & Khouri, 1998; Murray
et al., 2002). Moreover, research on romantic conflict has revealed that couples most
destined for relationship loss seem to be those who, during conflict, criticize and express
contempt for each other, respond defensively, and withdraw from one another (Gottman,
1994), suggesting narcissists’ self-regulatory style may ultimately lead to relationship
dissatisfaction or dissolution.
The results of the current study appear consistent with much of the literature on
narcissism and interpersonal functioning; however, there are a few issues to be considered.
First, the findings appear at odds with the relationship-enhancement hypothesis and with
research highlighting the possible benefits of narcissism for relationship functioning
(e.g., Foster & Campbell, 2005). Why, in the current study, do narcissists display greater
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart10
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
dysfunction? One likely explanation is the nature of the threat. While Foster and Campbell
(2005) elicit relationship doubts by asking participants to list reasons why partners may
not be committed, the current study elicits relationship-threat by having participants
discuss an issue of major disagreement in the relationship. It is possible that threat-
resistance involving the type of relationship-enhancement evident in Foster and
Campbell’s work (i.e., perceiving more difficulty generating reasons a partner may not be
committed) is not possible during a conflict interaction, where threat occurs as part of a
current social interaction. In line with this possibility, self-report research suggests that
narcissist indeed perceive themselves as less likely to make efforts to positively cope with
conflict (see Campbell & Foster, 2002). While the current study did not assess participants
perceptions of their own behavior during the conflict, future research should explore
whether narcissists acknowledge their negative behavior, or whether they reinterpret their
negative responses in a positive light.
Second, despite the strengths of multilevel modeling to explore how narcissists
navigate threat in their romantic relationships, the analyses are correlational in nature and
do not allow us to make causal inferences. For example, we cannot know whether
narcissism caused people to behave more negatively during conflict. It is possible that
other relationship variables or events influenced both participant’s reports of narcissism
and their conflict behaviors. However, because the findings are supported by theory and
previous research on narcissism and interpersonal self-regulation (see Campbell et al.,
2006; Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001; Sedikides et al., 2002), it is likely our results reflect the
differential reactivity of people high and low in narcissism to threatening relationship
interactions.
Third, because the majority of participants were involved in dating relationships, it may
be fruitful to consider whether narcissists in more committed relationships, such as
marriages, engage in similar relationship-regulation strategies. For example, the married
narcissist may become more communal over time (see Campbell et al., 2006), potentially
reducing the need to engage in conflict strategies that enhance the self, while derogating
the partner. Moreover, there may be moderators of the effect of narcissism on responses to
threat. Research has shown that when spouses elicit communal qualities in their
narcissistic husband or wife, narcissists report more commitment to their relationship
(Finkel, Campbell, Buffardi, Kumashiro, & Rusbult, 2009). In addition, narcissistic
aggression disappears when the target of aggression is seen as similar to the self (Konrath
et al., 2006), suggesting narcissists may respond less negatively toward romantic partners
who they perceive to be similar to the self. Finally, it should be noted that the current
study used a one-item scale to measure relationship commitment. While this scale has
good face validity, future research that investigates more committed adult relationships
(i.e., marriages) may consider using a multi-item measure of commitment.
Concluding Thoughts
Conflict is a natural part of any close relationship—but how people regulate the self in
these potentially rejecting interpersonal contexts has important implications for both
happiness and stability in romantic relationships (see Gottman, 1998 for a review).
Unfortunately, the results of the current study suggest that narcissists’ are not only hostile
in response to relationship conflict, but also likely to manipulate relationship perceptions
in ways that maintain feelings of power and perpetuate a game-playing style of love.
While previous research has highlighted the value of defending against relationship doubts
(e.g., Murray et al., 2003; Murray, Holmes, Griffin, Bellavia, & Rose, 2001), and provided
evidence that this may be a potential benefit of narcissism (Foster & Campbell, 2005), the
In Defense of Self Love 11
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
current study suggests that, for narcissists, resisting doubts elicited by conflict is truly a
defense of self-love rather than romantic love. Over time, narcissist’s love-lives will surely
suffer from such a dynamic.
Notes
1. Dropping same-sex couples from the analyses did not change the pattern of findings.
2. Data from this study were also reported in Peterson and DeHart (2013), study 2. Findings
regarding narcissism and negative verbal behavior were not reported in that research.
3. If members of a couple were of the same sex, independent observers only coded one partner,
never both.
4. Analyses were also run to explore whether partner narcissism interacted with participants own
levels of narcissism to predict behavior and commitment (Actor-Partner Interdependence
Model; Kenny & Kashy, 2000). None of the interactions between participant narcissism and
partner narcissism were significant (b’s #.001, p$.46) and therefore they were not included
in the final model.
5. We also explored whether gender moderated the effect of narcissism on observer-rated
behaviors and self-reported relationship perceptions. Gender did not moderate any of the
effects reported in the paper (b’s #.009, p$.24).
References
Bushman, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct
and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology,75, 219229.
Campbell, L., & Kashy, D. A. (2002). Estimating actor, partner and interaction effects for dyadic
data using PROC SAS MIXED and HLM: A user friendly guide. Personal Relationships,9,
327342.
Campbell, W. K. (1999). Narcissism and romantic attraction. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,77, 12541270.
Campbell, W. K., Brunell, A. B., & Finkel, E. J. (2006). Narcissism, interpersonal self-regulation,
and romantic relationships. In K. D. Vohs & E. J. Finkel (Eds.), Self and relationships:
Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes (pp. 57 83). New York, NY: Guilford
Press.
Campbell, W. K., & Foster, C. A. (2002). Narcissism and commitment in romantic relationships:
An investment model analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,28, 484 495.
Campbell, W. K., Foster, C. A., & Finkel, E. J. (2002). Does self-love lead to love for others? A story
of narcissistic game playing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,83, 340 354.
Campbell, W. K., Rudich, E. A., & Sedikides, C. (2002). Narcissism, self-esteem, and the positivity
of self-views: Two portraits of self-love. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,28,
358368.
Carlson, E., Vazire, S., & Oltmanns, T. (2011). You probably think this paper’s about you:
Narcissists’ perceptions of their personality and reputation. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,101, 185201.
DeHart, T., Longua, J. E., & Smith, J. (2011). To enhance or protect the self?: The complex role of
explicit and implicit self-esteem. In M. D. Alicke & C. Sedikides (Eds.), The handbook of self-
enhancement and self-protection. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Downey, G., & Feldman, S. I. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,70, 1327 1343.
Downey, G., Freitas, A. L., Michaelis, B., & Khouri, H. (1998). The self-fulfilling prophecy in close
relationships: Rejection sensitivity and rejection by romantic partners. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology,75, 545560.
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart12
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
Exline, J. J., Baumeister, R. F., Bushman, B. J., Campbell, W. K., & Finkel, E. J. (2004). Too proud
to let go: Narcissistic entitlement as a barrier to forgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,87, 894912.
Finkel, E. J., Campbell, K. W., Buffardi, L. E., Kumashiro, M., & Rusbult, C. (2009).
The metamorphosis of narcissus: Communal activation promotes relationship commitment
among narcissists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,35, 1271 1284.
Foster, J. D., & Campbell, W. K. (2005). Narcissism and resistance to doubts about romantic
partners. Journal of Research in Personality,39, 550557.
Gebauer, J. E., Sedikides, C., Verplanken, B., & Maio, G. R. (2012). Communal narcissism. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology,103, 854 878.
Gottman, J. D. (1998). Psychology and the study of marital process. Annual Review of Psychology,
49, 169–197.
Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce? Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Heyman, R. E., & Vivian, D. E. (2000). RMICS, rapid marital interaction coding system (Version 1.7).
State University of New York at Stony Brook: www.psy.sunysb.edu/marital/ .
Horton, R. S., & Sedikides, C. (2009). Narcissistic responding to ego-threat: When the status of the
evaluator matters. Journal of Personality,77, 14931525.
Kashy, D. A., & Kenny, D. A. (2000). The analysis of data from dyads and groups. In H. T. Reis &
C. M. Judd (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social psychology (pp. 451 477).
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Bolger, N. (1998). Data analysis in social psychology. In D. Gilbert &
S. T. Fiske (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology,(Vol. 1, 4th ed. pp. 233– 265).
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Kernis, M. H., & Sun, C. R. (1994). Narcissism and reactions to interpersonal feedback. Journal of
Research in Personality,28, 413.
Konrath, S., Bushman, B. J., & Campbell, K. W. (2006). Attenuating the link between threatened
egotism and aggression. Psychological Science,17, 9951001.
Moeller, S. J., Crocker, J., & Bushman, B. J. (2009). Creating hostility and conflict: Effects of
entitlement and self-image goals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,45, 448 452.
Morf, C. C., & Rhodewalt, F. (1993). Narcissism and self-evaluation maintenance: Explorations in
object relations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,19, 668–676.
Morf, C. C., & Rhodewalt, F. (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-
regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry,12, 177196.
Morf, C. C., Horvath, S., & Torchetti, L. (2011). Narcissistic self-enhancement: Tales of
(successful?) self-portrayal. In M. D. Alicke & C. Sedikides (Eds.), Handbook of self-
enhancement and self-protection (pp. 399424). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Murray, S. L., Bellavia, G., Rose, P., & Griffin, D. (2003). Once hurt, twice hurtful: How perceived
regard regulates daily marital interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,84,
126147.
Murray, S. L., Derrick, J. L., Leder, S., & Holmes, J. G. (2008). Balancing connectedness and self-
protection goals in close relationships: A levels-of-processing perspective on risk regulation.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,94, 429 459.
Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., Griffin, D. W., Bellavia, G., & Rose, P. (2001). The mismeasure of
love: How self-doubt contaminates relationship beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin,27, 423436.
Murray, S. L., Rose, P., Bellavia, G., Holmes, J., & Kusche, A. G. (2002). When rejection stings:
How self-esteem constrains relationship-enhancement processes. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology,83, 556573.
Nezlek, J. B. (2001). Multilevel random coefficients analyses of event- and interval-contingent data
in social and personality psychology research. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,27,
771785.
Nicholls, E., & Stukas, A. A. (2011). Narcissism and the self-evaluation maintenance model: Effects
of social comparison threats on relationship closeness. Journal of Social Psychology,151,
201212.
In Defense of Self Love 13
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Interpersonal and intrapsychic adaptiveness of trait self-enhancement:
A mixed blessing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,74, 1197 1208.
Peterson, J. L., & DeHart, T. (2013). Regulating connection: Implicit self-esteem predicts positive
non-verbal behavior during romantic relationship-threat. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology,49, 99105.
Powers, S. I., Pietromanaco, P. R., Gunlicks, M., & Sayer, A. (2006). Dating couples’ attachment
styles and patterns of cortisol reactivity and recovery in response to a relationship conflict.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,90, 613 628.
Raskin, R., & Terry, H. (1988). A principal-components analysis of the narcissistic personality
inventory and further evidence of its construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,54, 890902.
Rhodewalt, F., & Eddings, S. K. (2002). Narcissus reflects: Memory distortion in response to ego-
relevant feedback among high and low narcissistic men. Journal of Research in Personality,36,
97116.
Sedikides, C., Campbell, W. K., Reeder, G. D., Elliot, A. J., & Gregg, A. P. (2002). Do others bring
out the worst in narcissists?: The “others exist for me” illusion. In Y. Kashima, M. Foddy, &
M. Platow (Eds.), Self and identity: Personal, social, and symbolic (pp. 103 123). Mahwah,
NJ: Erlbaum.
Shrout, P. E., & Fleiss, J. L. (1979). Intraclass correlations: Uses in assessing rater reliability.
Psychological Bulletin,2, 420428.
Simpson, J. A., Rholes, S. W., & Philips, D. (1996). Conflict in close relationships: An attachment
perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,71, 899 914.
Smalley, R. L., & Stake, J. E. (1996). Evaluating sources of ego-threatening feedback: Self-esteem
and narcissism effects. Journal of Research in Personality,30, 483495.
Stucke, T. S. (2003). Who’s to blame? Narcissism and self-serving attributions following feedback.
European Journal of Personality,17, 465478.
Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2003). “Isn’t it fun to get the respect that we’re going to
deserve?” Narcissism, social rejection, and aggression. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin,29, 261272.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of
positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
54, 1063–1070.
J. L. Peterson & T. DeHart14
Downloaded by [University of New England] at 07:31 04 February 2014
... Narcissism has been linked to the perpetration of psychological abuse (Gormley & Lopez, 2010), verbal abuse (Caiozzo, Houston, & Grych, 2016;Lamkin, Lavner, & Shaffer, 2017), and sexual and physical abuse (Blinkhorn, Lyons, & Almond, 2015;Carton & Egan, 2017;Keiller, 2010;Ryan, Weikel, & Sprechini, 2008;Southard, 2010). It is noteworthy that although these maladaptive behaviors can also be applied to nonnarcissistic relationships, it is arguable that, in the case of narcissists, they may well be more prevalent (Fields, 2012;Peterson & DeHart, 2014). ...
... A related line of research points to the conclusion that narcissists view interpersonal relationships in the service of selfesteem regulation, power, and control (Besser & Priel, 2010;. Alarmingly, these relationship-threatening behaviors may reflect, in part, strategic attempts at manipulating and undermining intimate partners to reexert and reestablish a sense of power and control (Filippini, 2005;Määttä, Uusiautti, & Määttä, 2012;Peterson & DeHart, 2014;Tortoriello, Hart, Richardson, & Tullett, 2017). Although romantic partners are often viewed as "objects" for selfenhancement and self-aggrandizement for narcissistic individuals (Foster & Campbell, 2005;Rhodewalt & Eddings, 2002), the often complex and tragic outcome of entering a relationship with a narcissist is that the narcissist may initially come across as charming, seductive, and exciting during the early stages of the relationship, but the dark and toxic characteristics associated with the trait only become apparent over time (Moeller et al., 2009). ...
... The majority of studies on narcissism and domestic violence have been dominated by the grandiose component (i.e., the Narcissistic Personality Inventory or the Entitlement/ Exploitativeness subcomponent) as the main assessment of narcissism (Blinkhorn et al., 2015;Caiozzo et al., 2016;Carton & Egan, 2017;Fields, 2012;Gormley & Lopez, 2010;Keller et al., 2014;Lamkin et al., 2017;Peterson & DeHart, 2014;Robins, Tracy, & Shaver, 2001;Ryan et al., 2008;Southard, 2010). These studies arguably fail to consider the complex and multidimensional construct of the personality trait. ...
... A wealth of research has considered self-love in the context of narcissism, such as viewing it as a negative over-investment in the self and/or driving narcissistic patterns of relating to others (see Cichocka et al., 2015;Cichocka et al., 2017;He & Zhu, 2016;Jung & Chang, 2021;Peterson & Dehart, 2014;Pooley & Cohen, 2010;Rohmann et al., 2011). The majority of studies of self-love have focused it being a facet of narcissism in the context of romantic relationships, such as finding that higher levels of self-love may be associated with increased conflict behaviours (Peterson & Dehart, 2014) and lower levels of investment in relationships (Rohmann, et al, 2011). ...
... A wealth of research has considered self-love in the context of narcissism, such as viewing it as a negative over-investment in the self and/or driving narcissistic patterns of relating to others (see Cichocka et al., 2015;Cichocka et al., 2017;He & Zhu, 2016;Jung & Chang, 2021;Peterson & Dehart, 2014;Pooley & Cohen, 2010;Rohmann et al., 2011). The majority of studies of self-love have focused it being a facet of narcissism in the context of romantic relationships, such as finding that higher levels of self-love may be associated with increased conflict behaviours (Peterson & Dehart, 2014) and lower levels of investment in relationships (Rohmann, et al, 2011). On the contrary, positive psychological research has recently begun to consider self-love as a component of self-compassion, which is defined as "a basic kindness, with a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it" (Gilbert, 2009, p.13). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: Self-love has been conceptualized and studied in both the broader constructs of narcissism, as a negative trait referring to excessive self-focus, and self-compassion, as a positive trait pertaining to self-affirmations. Little is known about the lived experience of and attitudes towards self-love in young adults, for whom self-compassion is a known resilience factor against psychological difficulties. The present study aimed to explore young adults’ attitudes towards self-love. Methods: Eight participants (4 males and 4 females; age range 19-35; 3 Black, 2 White, 3 Indian) were recruited through convenience sampling methods on Facebook and interviewed via Zoom using a semi-structured interview schedule. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Results: Three overarching themes were found: Self-love is insight; External and internal factors of self-love; Self-love links to resilience. The data suggested that young adults view self-love from a positive perspective, stating that it leads to increased resilience towards developing strong negative reactions from traumatic experiences, which thus aided in the prevention of depression or anxiety. Cultural norms and beliefs were barriers to self-love, such as how able one feels to express emotions, or by influencing how one feels about aspects of their identity. Discussion: The findings suggest that young adults may view self-love as an important aspect of resilience through cognitive, affective and social processes. Internalized cultural norms may influence the development of self-love in individuals. Conclusions: Cultural factors and internalized norms warrant further investigation, such as how they may positively or negatively influence self-love and coping.
... In addition, narcissists were found to be less likely to display long-term commitment and to be more susceptible to infidelity and eventual divorce (Brewer et al., 2015). Negative behavior as a response to conflict has also been reported, such as revenge and lack of forgiveness (Peterson & DeHart, 2014). Other studies have shown narcissists to be more argumentative, evasive, and less ''giving'' in relationships Sedikides & Campbell, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
This research estimates how changes in admiration and rivalry narcissistic traits correlate with changes in relationship satisfaction over time. Longitudinal analyses based on data from the Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam) studies were used to investigate this question. Findings show associations between heightening rivalry narcissistic traits and decreased levels of relationship satisfaction among men and women, and between heightening admiration narcissistic traits and decreased levels of relationship satisfaction among men. When the two aspects were estimated together, accounting for collinearity, heightening admiration narcissistic traits were not associated with changes in relationship satisfaction among men, while, among women, they correlated with increased levels of relationship satisfaction. These findings advance previous propositions in recent literature and shed light on gender differences in this regard.
... IER represents the actions taken by a person to influence another individual's affective state, in this case, their romantic partner [33,34]. Commitment and interpersonal affect-worsening strategies (withdrawal behaviors, criticism, belittling, disrespect) were negatively con-nected [44][45][46][47]. In opposition, interpersonal affect-improving strategies (support, allowing the partner to present their emotions) were positively related to commitment [47,48]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Couple satisfaction is seen as very important by all those in a romantic relationship; however, there are no recipes for it. Using a dyadic approach, we investigate how commitment and intimacy influence couple satisfaction and the moderator role of interpersonal emotion regulation (affect-improving and -worsening strategies). To achieve the scope of the study, we collected data from 131 couples, which were later analyzed using the actor–partner interdependence model with moderation (APIMoM). The results showed that the actor-effect of both commitment and intimacy on couple satisfaction is significant. We found mixed results for the partner-effect of the two variables. Both partners’ strategies moderated the association between commitment and couple satisfaction. Women’s use of affect-worsening strategies moderated the link between men’s intimacy and women’s couple satisfaction. The impact of the interactions of commitment or intimacy with interpersonal affect-improving and -worsening strategies on couple satisfaction is discussed further, as well as the implications and importance of the results.
... Narcissistic individuals' anger in response to conflict and criticism (Peterson & DeHart, 2014) and tendency to blame external factors for their failures (Rhodewalt & Morf, 1998) are often thought to be defensive reactions to ego threats. Negative reactions to breakup could serve a similar function, creating motivation to blame ex-partners rather than oneself for relationship failure. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined how narcissism, described by the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept (NARC), relates to reactions to romantic relationship dissolution. 246 participants completed a survey assessing the NARC components, and measures concerning a specific past relationship: Emotional reactions immediately following breakup, perceptions of the ex-partner, responsibility for initiating and attributions of blame for problems leading to breakup. Narcissistic rivalry was associated with greater externalized (anger) and internalized (sadness and anxiety) negative emotion, while narcissistic admiration was associated with greater anger and less sadness. Narcissistic admiration was associated with more positive and rivalry with more negative trait perceptions of the ex-partner. Narcissism was unrelated to attributions of blame for the breakup or relationship problems, but admiration was associated with a greater role in initiating breakup.
... Further adding to these limitations, some researchers exclude female participants entirely in their studies on the assumed basis that men generally possess higher levels of aggression and narcissism (e.g., Buck et al., 2014;Krusemark et al., 2018;Meier, 2004;Rinker, 2009;Talbot et al., 2015), and other researchers (e.g., Carton & Egan, 2017;Fields, 2012;Peterson & Dehart, 2014) fail to distinguish the gender of the perpetrator versus the victim. These characteristics and approaches within past research can be argued to perpetuate a failure to recognise gender identifications in the emergence of narcissistic personality attributes spanning its full expressions of grandiosity and vulnerability. ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite putative gender differences in the expression of narcissism, prominent theories have virtually dismissed the role of females in the development and manifestation of narcissism. The contention that narcissism is a pathology of the self that may partly differ in males and females is further evident in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 reports that up to 75% of those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are men. Such figures suggest that the representation of narcissism as codified in the DSM-5 may only be marginally applicable to females, given its prominent focus and nature on capturing grandiose themes which closely resemble commonly masculine norms. The overemphasis on grandiose features extends to the empirical literature which defines narcissism as a normative personality trait and is widely assessed using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), on which males obtain significantly higher scores than females. As this review will demonstrate, one limitation frequently occurring in the literature is the attempt to comprehend narcissistic manifestations in females through the lens of what has commonly been defined as narcissism (DSM/NPI). In this review, the literature concerning the diagnostic assessment and conceptualisation of narcissistic personality disorder, aetiological factors, aggression, and partner violence perpetration will be discussed in relation to the importance of gender. This is followed by a review of existing gaps in theory and research, and suggestions for fruitful directions that can aid a richer and more meaningful literature on narcissism inclusive of gender issues.
... This is in line with the results of experimental studies that indicate that narcissistic spouses are highly problematic to their partners. They are described as showing hostility-e.g., criticism, insults-while discussing conflicts (Peterson and DeHart, 2014;Lamkin et al., 2017), as exhibiting aggressive behavior during competitive tasks (Keller et al., 2014), and as acting in an exploitative manner (Konrath et al., 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Four couple therapy first consultations involving clients with diagnosed narcissistic problems were examined. A sociologically enriched and broadened concept of narcissistic disorder was worked out based on Goffman’s micro-sociology of the self. Conversation analytic methods were used to study in detail episodes in which clients resist to answer a therapist’s question, block or dominate the development of the conversation’s topic, or conspicuously display their interactional independence. These activities are interpreted as a pattern of controlling practices that were prompted by threats that the first couple therapy consultation imposes upon the clients’ self-image. The results were discussed in the light of contemporary psychiatric discussions of narcissism; the authors suggest that beyond its conceptualization as a personality disorder, narcissism should be understood as a pattern of interactional practices.
... On the one hand, individuals high on narcissism tend to captivate with charm and a neat appearance (Campbell & Campbell, 2009;Holtzman & Strube, 2010) making them desirable partners Jauk et al., 2016). On the other hand, narcissists' entitlement (Campbell et al., 2004) or lack of commitment may be detrimental to relationship quality (e.g., Peterson & DeHart, 2014). Accordingly, narcissism is potentially both beneficial and harmful to relationship functioning. ...
Preprint
Research has shown that diverging romantic relationship outcomes of grandiose narcissism can be explained by differential associations of agentic and antagonistic aspects of narcissism. In this study, we wanted to further investigate the underlying mechanisms by examining how narcissists perceive daily situations with their partner. In an online diary, 171 couples reported on 1941 daily situations experienced together. Analyses revealed that agentic narcissism was positively and antagonistic narcissism was negatively related to daily relationship satisfaction. These effects were differentially linked through distinct situation perceptions: Agentic narcissism was positively linked with relationship satisfaction through perceiving daily situations as, for example, containing more romance, sexuality and love, while antagonistic narcissism was negatively linked with relationship satisfaction through perceiving, for example, more threat, criticism, and accusation. Results are discussed in light of the NARC model and with respect to person-situation transactions in romantic relationships.
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this research was to clarify the nature of experiencing relationships in connection with the dark aspects of personality-Dark Triad. The study was conducted on a sample of 293 young adults (M age = 22.9, SD = 3.4), 53.6% of females and 46.4% of males. The Slovak version of Short Dark Triad-SD3, the Slovak version of The Sternberg Triangular Love Scale (STLS) and the Slovak version of Experience in Close relationship-Revised were administered. The model of complex relationships of the Dark triad, components of love and attachment style explained 83% of the variation of the attachment style in a close relationship. The Dark triad had a direct negative effect on the love components and a direct positive effect on the attachment style in a close relationship. The components of love had a direct negative effect on the attachment style in a close relationship. In the model, gender differences were found.
Article
Full-text available
Research has shown that diverging romantic relationship outcomes of grandiose narcissism can be explained by differential associations of agentic and antagonistic aspects of narcissism. In this study, we wanted to further investigate the underlying mechanisms by examining how narcissists perceive daily situations with their partner. In an online diary, 171 couples reported on 1941 daily situations experienced together. Analyses revealed that agentic narcissism was positively and antagonistic narcissism was negatively related to daily relationship satisfaction. These effects were differentially linked through distinct situation perceptions: Agentic narcissism was positively linked with relationship satisfaction through perceiving daily situations as, for example, containing more romance, sexuality and love, while antagonistic narcissism was negatively linked with relationship satisfaction through perceiving, for example, more threat, criticism, and accusation. Results are discussed in light of the NARC model and with respect to person-situation transactions in romantic relationships.
Article
Full-text available
Reactions to trait self-enhancers were investigated in 2 longitudinal studies of person.perception in discussion groups. Groups of 4-6 participants met 7 times for 20 rain. After Meetings 1 and 7, group members rated their perceptions of one another. In Study 1, trait self-enhancement was indexed by measures of narcissism and self-deceptive enhancement. At the first meeting, self-enhancers made positive impressions: They were seen as agreeable, well adjusted, and competent. After 7 weeks, however, they were rated negatively and gave self-evaluations discrepant with peer evaluations they received. In Study 2, an independent sample of observers (close acquaintances) enabled a pretest index of discrepancy self-enhancement: It predicted the same deteriorating pattern of interpersonal perceptions as the other three trait measures. Nonetheless, all self-enhancement measures correlated positively with self-esteem.
Article
Full-text available
Two studies examined narcissism and commitment in ongoing romantic relationships. In Study 1, narcissism was found to be negatively related to commitment. Mediational analyses further revealed that this was primarily a result of narcissists’ perception of alternatives to their current relationship. Study 2 replicated these findings with an additional measure of alternatives. Again, narcissists reported less commitment to their ongoing romantic relationship. This link was mediated by both perception of alternatives and attention to alternative dating partners. The utility of an interdependence approach to understanding the role of personality in romantic relationships is discussed.
Article
A daily diary study examined how chronic perceptions of a partner's regard affect how intimates interpret and respond to daily relationship stresses. Spouses each completed a diary for 21 days. Multilevel analyses revealed that people who felt less positively regarded read more into stressful events than did people who felt highly regarded, feeling more hurt on days after acute threats, such as those posed by a moody or ill-behaved partner. Intimates who felt less valued responded to feeling hurt by behaving badly toward their partner on subsequent days. In contrast, intimates who felt more valued responded to feeling hurt by drawing closer to their partner. Ironically, chronically activated needs for belongingness might lead people who are trying to find acceptance to undermine their marriage.
Article
The authors argue that individuals with more negative models of self are involved in less satisfying relationships because they have difficulty believing that they are loved by good partners. Dating and married couples completed measures of self-models, perceptions of the partner’s love, perceptions of the partner, and relationship well-being. The results revealed that individuals troubled by self-doubt underestimated the strength of their partners’ love. Such unwarranted insecurities predicted less positive perceptions of their partners. In conjunction, feeling less loved by a less-valuable partner predicted less satisfaction and less optimism for the future than the partner’s feelings of love and commitment warranted. A dependency regulation model is described, where feeling loved by a good, responsive partner is thought to represent a sense of felt security that diminishes the risks of interdependence and promotes closeness.