For several years, now, I've been writing about the crop of narcissistic kids being bred by latter day baby boomers and echo boom parents in enclaves like Park Slope. (You can check out just a few of my postings on the subject HERE.)

A little less than a year ago, I quoted from a book, entitled THE NARCISSISM EPIDEMIC, written by psychology professors, W. Keith Campbell and Jean Twenge, who chart the dramatic rise in the number of Americans who have a clinical narcissist personality disorder.

A little more than a year ago, I quote an article in entitled: "But Enough About You …What is narcissistic personality disorder, and why does everyone seem to have it?"

Before I even started the FPL blog, I wrote regularly on the Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn blog about the raging Stepford Parents, living behind the brownstone ramparts of Park Slope, destroying the capacity for empathy in their children. The fact that I was both a parent 3 times over and a psychotherapist who worked with kids and families for 30 years didn't matter to these automatons, though. Needless to say, I got an enormous amount of flack for what I had to say.

Well, read it and weep, folks -according to a new study from the University of Michigan, college students today have 40 percent less empathy than people their age did two to three decades ago. FORTY PERCENT!!

U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORTS HealthDay column reports:

"We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000," co-author Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, said in a news release. "College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait."

The analysis indicated that relative to their late-1970s' counterparts, today's college students are less likely to make an effort to understand their friends' perspectives or to feel tenderness or concern for the less fortunate.

"Many people see the current group of college students -- sometimes called 'Generation Me' -- as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history," observed Konrath, who is also affiliated with the psychiatry department at the University of Rochester.

Congratulations, all you Park Slope parents! You did it! You successfully so over-indulged and lived through your kids that they don't give a shit about anybody but themselves now. You've gutted them of their empathy, an essential quality necessary for human development, just as I said you would. Now, we all get to live with their narcissism.



Anonymous said...

Don't you have any empathy for them?

A2person said...

Hey PL,

Thanks again for highlighting the narcissism issue and Twenge's take on it. As a posterchild for Gen Y, I feel the need to chime in here.

Yes, let me second everything you’ve said about the narcissism of my generation and the way we’ve been used by the boomers to buffer them from their unexamined, unresolved issues. Cut off from our higher self aspects, ours is a generation that’s starving for a so-called “beloved community” –something larger than our self interest/indulgence. Tragically, we’re unable to find, or to notice, many forms of generatively and expression beyond consumerism.

AND YET, the silver lining of the millennials/Gen Y is that we’re a generation that has taken a curious, and distinct, approach to issues of social justice, tolerance, and multiculturalism. Previous movements have looked at issues of oppression in a very compartmentalized approach: racism distinct from sexism distinct from classism. What’s emerged, in universities and community movements since the early 90’s, really in the past decade, is a more globalized, more intersectional approach to social justice and a burgeoning vocabulary to discuss these issues. This is best expressed in the emergence of intergroup dialogue programs.

Likewise, while past movements have often had a martyrdom quality to them, the Gen Y social conscience is one in which young people are looking for sustainable careers in that serve social justice issues –from environmental consultants to professional human rights activists. Livelihood and activist need not be oppositional and self-sacrificing.

Yes, what I’m talking about seems to be the ‘exception to the rule’ that you are fond of ridiculing, and, yes, there is something problematic about Professional 9-5 Social Justice Do-Gooders –but there’s something positive in Gen Y that shines outside of the arena of narcissism, or, operates in reaction to that very narcissism. I have to believe that the higher self aspects of the Gen Y’s will, one way or another, start to crack through. (Let's hope not destructively).

Remember it was this generation that elevated Obama to the democratic nomination and urged their parents to do the same. Without Gen Y, we would have seen Hilary vs. McCain. I’ll acknowledge that many of us were simply jumping the ObamaNation bandwagon, however, the Obama-surge amongst Gen Y’s spoke to that unarticulated generational hunger for something transpersonal. I don’t believe this sincerity has completely gone away and I’m curious where it will resurface on a collective scale.
Consider this a sliver of Gen “Y” optimism to go with your main course of alarmism! CHEERS!!


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