How does a narcissistic mother affect her daughter? Will the daughter end up with narcissistic traits or will she become a people-pleaser?

As with all human interactions, the answer is complicated. Narcissism influences parenting traits and this can affect children’s mental health. In this article, I’ll identify 10 symptoms of daughters of narcissistic mothers and examine the characteristics of narcissistic mothers.

10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

1. You often change your identity to suit others

Narcissistic mothers constantly change the rules, shifting boundaries in a second. You never knew what to expect, but you learned how to navigate your mother’s demands and morph into the person that makes her life easier.

As an adult, you are hypersensitive to changing moods and atmospheres. You adopt specific roles within family or friends to accommodate the stronger personalities around you. You know it’s not who you are, but who you’re perceived to be that’s important.

2. You are a people-pleaser

“…children of narcissistic parents tend to please the parents’ needs in order to avoid relational conflicts and preserve the attachment relationship.” (F, Dentale, et al., 2015)

Daughters of narcissist mothers learn to quickly suppress their needs in favor of their mother. They may hide their views or sacrifice their dreams to safeguard this relationship.

Narcissistic mothers make their daughters feel worthless and undeserving. You are only worthy if you raise your mother’s self-worth. Love is transactional for you. If you please your mother, she might notice you.

3. Love is conditional

Meeting the needs of an unstable mother is very challenging, but the positive feedback you receive is a strong substitute for love and affection. You grow up learning that love depends on you doing something for your mother.

The idea of unconditional love, someone loving you for you, not what you can do, is alien to you. There is always some quid pro quo where love is concerned. You do this thing for me, and I’ll love you.

4. You are anxious and depressed

“The experience of being targeted as a scapegoat by family members in childhood significantly predicted increased symptoms of anxiety and depression in young adulthood, and greater anxiety symptoms were a potential additional repercussion of scapegoating.” (M, Vignando, et al., 2022)

If your mother scapegoated you as a child, you are more likely to have anxiety and depression. Studies show a direct link with scapegoating in childhood and heightened anxiety in adults.

5. You need external validation

Healthy parenting builds a strong sense of identity and self-esteem. A narcissist mother is not concerned with raising well-balanced children. Her children are a means to an end, there only for her benefit.

Children need to know their parents love them unconditionally. Love is not dependent on behavior. Narcissist mothers reward behavior that benefits them. This is confusing to children and can result in a need for constant external validation in adult relationships.

6. You don’t think you are good enough

Narcissistic mothers love only on condition, setting impossible standards for a child. You soon learn your authentic self is not good enough. Your only worth is what you can do for your mother.

Pleasing your mother is linked to your self-image. This is your value, not as a separate person in your own right, but as a reflection of others. And if you’re not good enough, it reflects badly on the person you need to impress the most.

7. You end up in controlling or abusive relationships

Studies suggest that victims of early childhood abuse report a lower level of satisfaction in relationships. This includes poorer marital outcomes. You learn that abuse is normal and become desensitized to it.

Narcissistic mothers can cause long-term emotional abuse, resulting in codependency or neglecting your own needs in relationships. Victims develop a fear of abandonment, which makes leaving abusive relationships difficult. Low self-esteem, self-doubt, and shame facilitate this failure to leave a toxic situation.

8. You are clingy or hostile in relationships

Daughters of narcissistic mothers form insecure attachments which affect their future relationships. A daughter with an avoidant attachment will shut people out of her life because she doesn’t want to get too close. As a child, she’s learned not to trust. As an adult, she finds emotional intimacy difficult and pushes people away.

Daughters with an anxious attachment style are desperately searching for the love they didn’t receive growing up. They can become clingy and may put up with abusive partners because they fear abandonment.

9. You have narcissistic tendencies

Narcissists focus on their own needs and use their children as props to further their worth. Growing up, a child sees the attention the mother gets and how easy it is to manipulate others. People are only useful if you can get something from them.

A daughter’s neglected emotional well-being could cause a lack of empathy or compassion in the child. Dysfunction, drama, conflict, guilt tripping and scapegoating are normal. People are just pawns to be used.

10. You have poor mental and physical health

It’s not surprising to learn that adverse childhood experiences affect us long into adulthood. Studies show a link between childhood adversity, such as parental neglect, and poor overall health. Researchers link conditions such as:

  • OCD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addictive behavior
  • Eating disorders
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Increased violence
  • Risk-taking
  • Difficulties in relationships

So, those are the symptoms of daughters of narcissistic mothers, but how can you recognize the narcissistic mother?

Understanding the Narcissistic Mother


There are two types of narcissists; grandiose and vulnerable.

The grandiose narcissistic mother

The grandiose narcissistic mother is only concerned with herself and how the world perceives her. She has an over-inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement, is superior to everyone around her, and we should all cater to her desires.

A grandiose narcissist has constructed a positive self-image they believe wholeheartedly to be true.

The vulnerable narcissistic mother

The vulnerable narcissistic mother is also highly self-absorbed but with a fragile ego. This mother needs constant reassurance and validation. Highly sensitive to criticism, vulnerable narcissists feel ashamed because of their negative self-image.

Vulnerable narcissists are prone to narcissistic rage when faced with their true self.

Parenting styles of narcissistic mothers

8 Signs You Were Raised by a Toxic Mother and Didnt Know It

The grandiose narcissistic mother’s parenting style

Unresponsive parental care: Grandiose narcissists only think of themselves. They lack empathy and exploit their children for their own self-esteem. They deny the needs of their children, seeing them only as props to make them look good.

Favoritism or scapegoating: This is a manipulation tactic used by narcissist mothers. Favoring a different child or scapegoating their daughter is a form of control that elevates their own position within the family.

Highly competitive: Narcissist mothers want to be the center of attention. They may see their daughter as competing for this attention and be jealous of them. Or they can force their daughter into situations that put the mother in a good light.

The vulnerable narcissistic mother’s parenting style

Low care but over-protective: Vulnerable narcissists fear abandonment, so they become over-protective and clingy with their children. This ‘affectionless control’ manifests in putdowns or shaming by the mother, which makes the children reliant on her affection even more.

A need for constant validation: The need for validation is so strong that it overrides parental care. The mother becomes the child as she uses them as tools to boost her esteem.

Guilt-tripping and self-sacrifice: Narcissistic mothers guilt-trip their children by highlighting the sacrifices they made while raising them. They blame them for their lack of career opportunities or problems with partners.

Final Thoughts

Did you recognize any of the 10 symptoms of daughters of narcissistic mothers? If so, don’t let it discourage you. Understanding the origins of your behavior is the first step to dealing with it.


  3. Featured image by master1305 on Freepik

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Julie

    Yes. Thank you Janey. Helpful information.

    1. Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

      Thank you for reading Julie.

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