Vulnerable narcissism as a mediator of the relationship between perceived parental invalidation and eating disorder pathology
Purpose: Parental invalidation and narcissism have been proposed to play an important role in understanding the etiology of eating disorders. The current research aimed to address two main gaps in the literature. The first aim was to determine the differential associations of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism with eating disorder pathology. The second aim was to find a common mediator between both maternal and paternal invalidation and eating disorder pathology. It was hypothesized that when controlling for vulnerable narcissism, grandiose narcissism would not predict eating disorder pathology. In addition, it was hypothesized that vulnerable narcissism would be a mediator of the relationship between parental invalidation and eating disorder pathology.
Methods: Participants were 352 women aged 18-30 years who were recruited from the general and tertiary student population, and as such constituted a community sample. Participants completed the Invalidating Childhood Environment Scale, Brief-Pathological Narcissism Inventory, Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, the Avoidance of Affect Subscale of the Distress Tolerance Scale, and the Emotional Expression as a Sign of Weakness Subscale of the Attitudes Towards Emotional Expression Scale in an online survey.
Results: Results showed that, when controlling for vulnerable narcissism, grandiose narcissism was no longer associated with eating disorder pathology. It was also found that parental invalidation had a positive indirect effect upon eating disorder pathology, via vulnerable narcissism.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that vulnerable narcissism is more strongly associated with eating disorder pathology as opposed to grandiose narcissism and help to further elucidate the mechanisms via which parental invalidation might exert its negative effect on eating disorder pathology. Level of evidence: A cross-sectional survey (Level V).