Distinguishing Between Adaptive and Maladaptive Narcissism

  • Huajian CaiEmail author
  • Yu L. L. Luo


Increasingly, studies have shown that grandiose narcissism can be adaptive or maladaptive. Adaptive narcissism (characterized by authority and self-sufficiency) and maladaptive narcissism (characterized by exploitativeness, entitlement, and exhibitionism) differ in their associations with the Big Five personality traits, inter- and intrapersonal adaptions, and problem behaviors and differ in their developmental trajectories and genetic and environmental foundations. Supportive evidence includes (1) high maladaptive narcissism tended to be associated with high neuroticism, actual-ideal discrepancies, depression, anxiety, aggression, impulsive buying, and delinquency but associated with low empathy and self-esteem, whereas high adaptive narcissism tended to manifest null or opposite associations with those variables; (2) maladaptive narcissism declined with age, whereas adaptive narcissism did not; (3) adaptive and maladaptive narcissism differed substantially in their genetic and environmental bases. These findings deepen our understanding about grandiose narcissism and gandiose narcissists and suggest the importance of distinguishing between adaptive and maladaptive narcissism in future research and intervention practice.


Narcissism Adaptive narcissism Maladaptive narcissism Personality Development Genetics 



This work was supported by the National Social Science Fund of China (17ZDA324) awarded to Huajian Cai. We thank the editors for their insightful comments on an earlier draft.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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