Vanity, Vanity On The Wall
By Gina Mobilio
Five psychologists completed an extensive study on college students and concluded that today’s generation is more vain and self-centered than that of any other generation.
The article, “Vanity On The Rise Among College Students,” by the Associated Press quotes professor Jean Twenge, the lead author of a study of 16,475 students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) between 1982 and 2006, saying, “We need to stop repeating ‘Your Special’ and having children repeat that back. Kids are self-centered enough already.” The psychologists who recently presented their study at a workshop in San Diego, found that the student’s NPI scores have risen 30%; a drastic change over the last 15 years.
Some teachers say they have observed this behavior in children as early ages 11 and 12. Marisa Delacalse, a 50 year-old middle school teacher in Mendham, N.J., says she has seen the negative effect that over-praising a child can have.
“Children don’t understand the term “average” anymore,” she said. “Some (children) are so used to hearing from their parents that they are wonderful in every field, and can do anything they set their minds to because they are “special,” that they cannot function properly when failure does come their way. Children are more inclined to act out and be aggressive when they are not humbled at an early age. It’s the parent’s fault.”
Some people believe that narcissism can have a plus side, and can actually fuel a person’s confidence and comfort when dealing with situations that test their abilities. Marianne Difalco, a 48 year-old mother of three in Sussex, N.J,, concurs.
“I told my kids, and still tell my kids, that they are special every day. I might not have said it in those words, “you are special,” but I let them know they stood out in my eyes and in the eyes of God. My kids are not cocky or conceited at all. (They are always) helping out others and do, in fact, have self-esteem issues. I don’t think eliminating praise of children would solve anything.”
Difalco continued, “Although I believe praise is an essential part (of parenting), parents must also keep in mind that there is a fine line between praising their kids and spoiling their kids. When a child is shown that they are ‘special’ through gifts and treats, that child can grow up to expect treats and gifts for no reason at all because they are considered to be special by the word of their parents.”
The study shows that children who were constantly praised and told that they were special by their parents have a much stronger tendency to be unfaithful when in relationships, and they establish controlling behaviors towards others. The researchers believe that this trend dates back to the 1980s during the time of the “self-esteem movement.” They say movement has expanded and feel that it has gotten out of hand entirely.
“I don’t own a camera, I look in the mirror on average once a day, and I don’t have a MySpace page or whatever it’s called,” said 23 year-old NYU graduate Kati Lampa. “I feel that it’s a terrible craze. I don’t know who has the time to sit behind a computer and actually hope that someone is commenting on your pictures and saying how pretty and skinny you look. And frankly, I don’t want to know who is that shallow and conceited.”
Lampa added, “vanity within today’s society has even leaked into cell phones. The whole camera phone thing is just another way for self-centered people to click away at themselves. It’s terrible. Something needs to be done.”