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HIGH LIFE : First-Borns Likely to Be Spoiled Brats, New Study Shows

August 18, 1989|KATHLEEN DOHENY

First-borns have long enjoyed reputations as leaders, but a new study suggests they are also likely to grow up to be spoiled brats.

Charles E. Joubert, a professor of psychology at the University of North Alabama who studied 29 first-borns, 33 middle-borns and 43 last-borns, found that first-borns scored higher on a narcissism test. The test measured such attributes as self-absorption, lack of empathy and a grandiose sense of self-importance. Sex was a factor too. First-born men scored higher than first-born women.

Parental pampering may be to blame for first-borns' narcissism. "For a few years, they are often the little kings or queens of the house," Joubert says. "They could grow up with the idea that the world revolves around them."

Although other researchers have suggested a link between being born first in the family and a lack of empathy, UCLA psychologist Frederick Frankel thinks calling first-borns narcissistic is taking it too far. "Narcissism implies a pathological condition," he says. First-borns may tend to be self-centered, he says, "but it doesn't necessarily mean you can't be sympathetic. Being self-centered is a quality, I think, necessary for leadership."

Nonetheless, what is the best way to deal with a spouse or friend who displays narcissistic qualities? "Point out that others have needs and demands too," Joubert says. "In some cases, it might be a real revelation to them, and they won't take offense."

For the record, Frankel and Joubert are both first-borns.

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