The relationship between a father with narcissistic personality disorder and his daughters is often much different than the relationship between the narcissistic father and his sons. On the surface, it may even seem as though the daughter has an easier time with the narcissistic father than the son would. However, the results of a narcissistic father can be just as damaging and traumatic for the daughter.
It’s a Cruel World
Research literature is beginning to show a positive correlation between a ridged adherence to traditional gender norms and narcissism, a long with a whole host of other psychiatric conditions. Men suffering from narcissistic personality disorder are more likely to believe that women and girls need men to protect them from the harsh realities of life. This belief will generally impact the way a father with NPD treats his daughters. Fathers with NPD may “take it easy” on their daughters when it comes to expectations, reasoning that they cannot expect a female to handle consequences. For example, a father may physically discipline his sons when the receive a bad grade in math, but he may elect not to use physical discipline on his daughters reasoning that girls cannot take physical punishment, and sexist maxims such as “girls aren’t good at math anyway”. Or, the father may financially provide for his adult daughters, reasoning that they will not be able to provide for themselves until they’re married to a man. This can result in women who do believe they should get a break in life simply because they’re women. And, even worse, it can result in a woman who believes that she is incompetent, inferior to men, and unable to face the world without a man to protect her.
Fathers suffering from narcissistic personality disorder are often very proud and protective of their daughters, and they tend to focus on the traits and interests that they are the proudest of. On the other hand, fathers with NPD may tend to ignore the qualities and traits of their daughters that they don’t like. For example, imagine a father with NPD who is very proud of his daughter’s ability to play piano. This man may boast that his daughter has perfect pitch or has won awards for her ability to play piano. When it comes to the daughter’s interests that the father doesn’t share, the father may ignore them, or belittle them. You can imagine this father rolling his eyes, “Yes, my daughter loves tennis—what a stupid sport anyway.” Many fathers with NPD amplify the traits in the daughter that they find desirable. The men often take responsibility for such traits: “My daughter plays piano very well; she sure does take after me.” If the father does not like the trait, he may attribute it to his wife, or another influence in the daughter’s life: “My daughter has the worst taste in music; she probably got it from her mother.” This can cause the girl to grow into a woman who believes that nobody will love her for who she is, because her father never loved her for who she was; he only loved her for what she did for him.
An Insecurely Attached Child
Neither mothers with NPD nor fathers with NPD are particularly good at raising a child with a secure attachment. A secure attachment is necessary for children to learn something called emotional self-regulation. Many parents with NPD do not have secure attachments and, because they don’t have secure attachments, they tend to raise children who are similarly insecurely attached. Emotional self-regulation refers to the a person’s ability to feel emotions, express them, and cope with them. However, children of a parent (or parents) who have NPD can become stunted if they learn that they aren’t allowed to express certain emotions. After all, you cannot teach your child how to cope with and feel a large range of emotions if you yourself have certain emotions that are forbidden. Common examples of this include, “boys don’t cry” and “expressing anger is not very ladylike.” Children who are raised to learn that certain emotions are off-limits grow into adults who do not know when they’re feeling those emotions, nor do they understand how to process them, or express them.
Having a father who has narcissistic personality disorder may cause the daughter to seek out other men with narcissistic personality disorder. Not only does it feel familiar to have a male figure with narcissistic personality disorder, but it may even be comforting for these women to date a man with narcissistic personality disorder. While it may not be ideal for a daughter to be raised by a man with narcissistic personality disorder, many daughters do love and admire their fathers with NPD. It’s not uncommon for women to see their fathers as an example of what a man should be, and if a woman was raised by a man who thinks that women are inherently incompetent and ill-equipped to handle reality, then she may gravitate toward men who treat her like she’s incompetent and unable to face the world.
What You Can Do
If you have a daughter and you’re co-parenting with a narcissistic spouse, you can be make difference in your daughter’s life by showing her love and acceptance for who she is. Though her father will likely be an influence in her life, you can make sure she has other male role models to be examples.