The Reactive Vulnerable Narcissist and the Complex Relationship between Narcissism and Aggression
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AbstractThe purpose of this study is to examine how vulnerable and grandiose narcissism are uniquely related to the four subtypes of aggression. Narcissism is characterized by an exceptional sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and lack of empathy (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Narcissism is often associated with aggression. One theory to explain the relationship between narcissism and aggression is the theory of threatened egotism (Baumeister et al., 2000) which proposes aggression as a method of defending one’s highly favorable view of the self against someone who seeks to undermine that view. Narcissism can be divided into two subtypes: grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissism (GN) refers to individuals with high self-esteem who tend to be entitled, outgoing, and charismatic (Du et al., 2021). In contrast, vulnerable narcissism (VN) refers to individuals with low self-esteem who are egocentric andhave a strong sense of entitlement. People with VN tend to have more avoidant interpersonal styles than GN. Aggression is violent or hostile behavior directed towards others (Tedeschi & Felson, 1994), and places a high cost on society (Stattin & Magnusson, 1989). Aggression has two functions. Proactive aggression is the purposeful use of harm to accomplish a goal. Reactive aggression differs as it is retaliatory behavior resulting from frustration or perceived provocation. Aggression can also take on two forms. Overt aggression includes direct physical and verbal harm towards another, while relational aggression is the intent to harm another person's social standing or reputation through emotionally manipulative tactics, such as exclusion or spreading rumors (Rose et al., 2004; Werner & Crick, 1999). The combinations of these create four unique subtypes of aggression, proactive relational (PR), proactive overt (PO), reactive relational (RR), and reactive overt (RO). Although aggression and narcissism have been examined, few studies have looked at the four subtypes of aggression and their unique relationships to GN and VN. We hypothesize that VN will be positively correlated with RO and RR aggression. This is because low self-esteem and sense of entitlement, which define VN, may cause people to be easily offended and responsive to potential threats. Our second hypothesis is that we expect a positive association between GN and PO and PR aggression. Grandiose narcissists may use proactive aggression in the pursuit of goals and in the attainment of power. Regression analyses were used to test the associations between the subtypes of narcissism and aggression. Results indicated that grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism were both uniquely associated with proactive relational, proactive overt, reactive relational, and reactive overt aggression. Results also showed a differential pattern of associations, with GN having a stronger association to proactive subtypes and VN having a stronger association to reactive subtypes of aggression.
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