You're still so vain: Changes in narcissism from young adulthood to middle age

Eunike Wetzel, Emily Grijalva, Richard W. Robins, Brent W. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, there have been no long-term longitudinal studies of continuity and change in narcissism. This study investigated rank-order consistency and mean-level changes in overall narcissism and 3 of its facets (leadership, vanity, and entitlement) over a 23-year period spanning young adulthood (Mage 18, N 486) to midlife (Mage 41, N 237). We also investigated whether life experiences predicted changes in narcissism from young adulthood to midlife, and whether young adult narcissism predicted life experiences assessed in midlife. Narcissism and its facets showed strong rank-order consistency from age 18 to 41, with latent correlations ranging from.61 to.85. We found mean-level decreases in overall narcissism (d 0.79) and all 3 facets, namely leadership (d 0.67), vanity (d 0.46), and entitlement (d 0.82). Participants who were in supervisory positions showed smaller decreases in leadership, and participants who experienced more unstable relationships and who were physically healthier showed smaller decreases in vanity from young adulthood to middle age. Analyses of the long-term correlates of narcissism showed that young adults with higher narcissism and leadership levels were more likely to be in supervisory positions in middle age. Young adults with higher vanity levels had fewer children and were more likely to divorce by middle age. Together, the findings suggest that people tend to become less narcissistic from young adulthood to middle age, and the magnitude of this decline is related to the particular career and family pathways a person pursues during this stage of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-496
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Maturity principle
  • Mean-level changes
  • Narcissism
  • Personality development
  • Vanity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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