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Young adults are ‘distressed’ by labels of narcissism and entitlement, study finds

Young people think they’re the most self-absorbed generation but that doesn’t meant they like the label

Katie O'Malley
Thursday 16 May 2019 12:59
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Young adults believe their generation is the most narcissistic and entitled living generation, but are “distressed” by being labelled as such, a new study finds.

According to the research, published in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday, adults aged between 18 and 25 believe they are the most self-absorbed living age-group.

Researchers from Bowling Green State University in the US conducted three studies to find out how young generations react to words such as “narcissism” and “entitlement” and being described as such.

Participants in the first study included more than 1,000 university undergraduates and 724 people from a variety of age groups in an online survey.

The survey’s participants were asked questions about their personality traits, age-group stereotypes, and their views of narcissism and entitlement both as traits and labels for their generations.

The findings showed that young adults believe their generation and adolescents are the most narcissistic and entitled age groups. However, it also suggested older adults’ views of the narcissism and entitlement of these generations are more exaggerated that young people’s views of themselves.

The additional two studies involved researchers examining 218 and 376 university students' reactions to sections of written materials describing people aged 18 to 25.

The results showed that students reacted negatively to their age group being described as narcissistic and entitled in a similar way to how they reacted to other “undesirable” labels such as being easily offended and overly sensitive.

Dr Josh Grubbs, a psychology professor at Bowling Green State University and the lead author of the study said: "All generations think that the youngest generations (millennials and generation Z) are the most narcissistic and entitled generations.

“However, millennials and Generation Z dislike this characterization and believe it less than older generations do."

Despite young people believing they are the most self-centred generation living, Dr Grubbs argues that it doesn’t mean it’s true, explaining that they might be adopting that stereotype often emphasised in the media and in previous psychological studies.

“That narrative, in part, started with us,” Dr Grubbs told the New York Times. “Psychologists were the ones that talked about the narcissism epidemic to begin with.”

“There’s this huge debate in psychology and there has been for years,” he said. “But no one had taken the time just to basically say, ‘Well, how do these kids feel about that?’”

In light of the study, Dr Grubbs said he was shocked to find out that young people accepted the labels of being narcisstic and entitled.

“I expected more denialism or scepticism, if you will,” he told the publication.

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Grubbs hopes the study’s findings encourage people to be less quick about labelling broad generations.

“Maybe being a little more cautious and kind could be one implication,” he said.

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