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Narcissism in Midlife: Longitudinal Changes in and Correlates of Women's Narcissistic Personality Traits


  • Nicola J. Newton is now in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.
  • Collection of the data reported in this research has been supported by the Boston University Graduate School, National Science Foundation Visiting Professorships for Women, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the MacArthur Foundation Network for Research on Successful Midlife Development, Radcliffe Research Support and Midlife Program Grants from the Henry A. Murray Research Center, National Institute of Mental Health subgrants under Grants 1-RO1-MH43948 and 1-RO1-MH47408, National Institute on Aging Training Grant T32-AG0017, and the University of Michigan. Computer-accessible and other data from several previous waves are archived at the Henry A. Murray Research Center, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 01238.


We examined changes in and correlates of 3 kinds of narcissism—hypersensitivity, willfulness, and autonomy—during middle adulthood. Few studies have examined narcissistic personality traits beyond young adulthood, and none has assessed longitudinal changes in narcissism during midlife. In a sample of 70 college-educated women, we found that observer ratings of hypersensitive narcissism were associated with more negative outcomes at ages 43 and 53 (i.e., more depressive symptoms and physical health problems, lower life satisfaction and well-being). Ratings of willfulness and autonomy predicted more positive outcomes. All 3 kinds of narcissism showed considerable rank-order stability over 10 years, but there were also mean-level changes: Hypersensitivity and autonomy decreased, whereas willfulness increased. More positive outcomes were associated with decreases in hypersensitivity and increases in willfulness and autonomy. However, in multivariate analyses, autonomy did not show any significant associations with women's health and well-being outcomes, suggesting that it may have less predictive utility compared to hypersensitivity and willfulness. Our findings highlight developmental changes in and correlates of women's narcissistic personality traits and the importance of assessing different aspects of narcissism in midlife.