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The Impact of Narcissistic Traits on Student’s Attitudes Towards Life and Learning in Higher Education

  • 10 Pages
  • Published On: 29-11-2023

The aim of this report was to determine the impact of narcissistic traits on students’ attitude towards life and education. Using semi-structured interview questions and thematic analysis, the research found some common themes which show narcissistic personality traits on participant students. The students were anxious and depressed in their first days at school. They were anxious about making new friends and doing a lot of university work independently. Relationship with other students, family and teachers are highly important to them. These relationships make life enjoyable and school life interesting. Without these relationships they feel depressed and alone, something they are afraid of.


Introduction to the topic area

Narcissism is becoming a common personality trait in our society today. The concept of narcissism has existed for a long time in society since the period of the Greeks who described it first in mythological characters (King, 2012). This author traced this personality trait the Greeks’ Narcissus mythological story where this individual pursued true love in his life but came to realize that he only had love for himself. In many situations according to King (2012), too much self-love can prevent the development of positive interactions with other people. People have different degrees of narcissistic characteristics or qualities. They put in place different behavioral strategies at varying levels which influences their relationships with others and their perception of things or life around them (King, 20120).


Overview of existing literature

Burke (2020) claim that personality, an inherent part of people, can be abnormal or extreme since they can be manifested in the form of personality disorders. These authors say that narcissism is a common personality abnormality experienced by students, a condition that is among the most challenging conditions to treat. These authors further claim that narcissism can grow or be cultivated in students. This becomes a problem to society because these young people are the likely future leaders. This condition has also been associated with poor or unsuccessful academic performance and later performance in life (Burke, 2020). Twenge and Foster (2010) say that narcissism in college-aged students is rising. These authors note that this condition is on the rise in societies today because of cultural changes. For instance, from childhood, many individuals in western societies are increasing been told that they are highly unique and special. This increase their assertiveness, extroversion and self-esteem, key narcissism elements. Twenge and Foster (2010) also argue that many societies today put a lot of emphasis on wealth and materialism, which encourages young people’s focus on success and pleasures. According to these researchers, these cultural changes facilitate changes in young individual’s personality traits which lead to narcissistic traits with consequential negative impacts on societies.

Rationale for your research study

Since narcissism as a personality trait is common in students and is very challenging to deal with. The personality trait changes impacts individuals’ perception and attitude towards life. In students, this affects their academic performance. Because of the difficulty to treat this condition, it becomes detrimental to society. As a result, this condition calls for further research to find out how this condition can be dealt with or how students with narcissistic traits can be helped.

Aim of the study

The aim of this study is to examine the impact of narcissistic traits on Student’s attitudes towards Life and Learning in Higher Education

Objectives of the study

To determine how narcissistic personality traits in students impacts their attitude towards life. To critically determine how narcissistic personality traits in college students impact their attitude towards higher education and their academic performance.

Research Question

How does narcissistic personality traits in students affect their attitude towards life? How does narcissistic personality traits influence students’ attitudes towards higher education and their academic performance?

Data collection: the semi structure interview method

This research will use semi-structured interview questionnaires with open ended questions to collect data. This approach is appropriate for this study because it can help asks few predetermined questions to get the most accurate data (Evans and Lewis, 2018). Semi-structured interviews combines both unstructured and structured interview styles. This will benefit this study by allowing the researcher to compare the traits of different students. This also allows the researcher to explore specific themes in each participant or research candidate (Evans and Lewis, 2018).

Data Analysis: the thematic analysis method

Analyses of the collected data will involve the thematic analysis method. Themes to be looked for in the data sets are the characteristics associated with narcissistic personalities and attitude towards life and education (Evans and Lewis, 2018).

Procedure of the interview and analysis

The semi-structured interview questions will be prepared by writing a guide which contains the target information to be obtained and topic areas to be covered. The researcher will introduce themselves by building a rapport to participants and begin the interview from simple to complex question. The participants’ responses will be recorded for later analysis. The exemplar interview questions form the transcripts for later analysis. The thematic analysis will find emerging themes through a six phase coding process. These phases include familiarising with the data, producing initial codes, finding themes in the codes, assessing and reviewing the themes, naming and defining the themes and producing a final analysis or report (Evans and Lewis, 2018). The study will involve 8-10 college students as participants, both males and females in equal numbers. Ethical considerations, including acquiring consent from the college and from the students will be acquired. Anonymity will be maintained to protect people’s identity. The data will be protected from third unwanted parties.

Results and Discussion

Anxiety and Stress

Analysis of the transcript has demonstrated that students are anxious and feel terrified during their first weeks in school. Afraid of meting new different people. They are also afraid of being alone. Poppy notes for instance that ‘…lived with my family erm for my whole life so living with new people was just quite scary’.

Dependence on others and on friendship

This theme has come up in many instances in the transcript. Evidently, the participant dependent on family for many things. For instance, Poppy shows the reliance or dependence on family and friends to be comfortable in life and to be able to have a good life in the University. The similar quote ‘lived with my family erm for my whole life so living with new people was just quite scary’, shows how important these relationships are to the student. This is also seen when the student preferred other students’ company rather than the stressing induction process and introduction to course work. According to Poppy for example, making new friends was a priority in the first week of school.

Impact of Narcissistic traits on Motivation

The student notes that ‘it’s nice to make some friendships straight away so you're not completely alone’. The student who participated in the study considered a strong friendship base important when in the university. The student considers this period to bet the best time of their lives and this is only made possible when greatest friendships are made, friendship that can last a lifetime. The friendship is for socialising, talking about work and going out. Poppy notes that ‘doing work independently in the university ‘can be a bit of a pain to always like research things, look up journal articles’. Additionally, this participant notes that other students are mostly motivated by the social dimensions of college and the University and not the goal to achieve a degree. The friendship or closeness between students and their teachers is also important for the students. Poppy wanted to feel close to the teachers in the University like it happened in college. These, plus having a sense of identity and belonging, for instance being part of the psychology department, is important to the student. From these results, it is evident that Poppy has narcissistic tendencies. This student finds it difficult to make new friends but depends on the relationship with others to feel self-worthy and to enjoy school life. The student shows high dependence on other and an attachment problem with family and friends. According to Cai, H. and Luo (2018) claim that narcissistic personalities are seen in individuals who are always looking for the reflection of their self-worth, especially that which they never had during childhood. These authors claim that narcissistic individuals lack healthy internal self-esteem. Additionally, they depend heavily on other people’s positive feedback and cannot tolerate things which threaten their grandiose self, like critical feedback and failure. Cunha (2020) notes that these individuals often have dependency and attachment difficulties, feel emptiness or boredom and are vulnerable to significant life changes. They find difficulty focusing on gaols and sacrificing their time for important things like school work (Cunha, 2020).

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This report has highlighted that narcissism is becoming a common personality trait in our society today and that individuals with too much self-love can prevent the development of positive interactions with other people. Societies today put a lot of emphasis on wealth and materialism, which encourages narcissistic traits with negative impacts on their attitude towards life and education. These individuals experience attachment difficulties and become depressed when alone. Students particularly become dependent on family, friends and teachers and find difficulty when they are alone. They become anxious and stressed and cannot focus in their academic work. They prefer to other people’s company rather than being alone.


Burke, E., 2020. Now What? Let Us Prey, Revised Edition: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About it, p.208.

Cai, H. and Luo, Y.L., 2018. Distinguishing between adaptive and maladaptive narcissism. In Handbook of trait narcissism (pp. 97-104). Springer, Cham.

Cunha, J., P., 2020. What are the signs of a Narcissistic Child? https://what_are_the-signs_of_a_narcissistic_child/article_em.html [Accessed 25th Feb 2021].

Evans, C. and Lewis, J., 2018. Analysing semi-structured interviews using thematic analysis: Exploring voluntary civic participation among adults. SAGE Publications Limited.

King, J.W., 2012. Narcissism in Romantic Relationships: An Analysis of Couples' Behaviour during Disagreements. Kaleidoscope, 10(1), p.11.

Twenge, J.M. and Foster, J.D., 2010. Birth cohort increases in narcissistic personality traits among American college students, 1982–2009. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(1), pp.99-106.

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