GENDER AND NARCISSISM

Authors


  • This work is based on a doctoral dissertation entitled, “The Social Production of Personality: A Case Study of Narcissism,” University of California, Santa Cruz, 1981. The author would like to thank Nancy Chodorow for her comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

  • Printed in the United States of America.Published by Cambridge University Press.

Abstract

Within social science and psychoanalytic literature the “narcissistic personality” is considered to be the “personality of our tim”. It is universally assumed to describe both female and male experience, insofar as there exists no reference in either the psychoanalytic or sociological literature to any relationship between narcissism and gender. This gender neutrality is brought into question, however, by the disproportionate representation of men in the clinical case material that forms the basis of our understanding of what narcissism is and how it functions as both a psychological and social pathology. This article demonstrates that narcissism—as a personality type and pathological disorder—denotes a way of being in the world that is primarily if not exclusively experienced by men. It appears that a particular form of family structure underlies the development of narcissism in men and cultivates asymmetrical yet intersecting problems in women. The gender bias ingredient in the term “narcissism” must be recognized and diagnoses, descriptions, and etio-logical explanations of the narcissistic personality should reflect such recognition.

Ancillary