It is quite easy to overlook female narcissists and their even more ruthless cousins, sociopaths. Since female narcissists engage in the same type of relational aggression that teenage girls do, they can easily fly under the radar as the “mean girl” motif coming to life in high definition – something we all assume they will eventually grow out of.
Yet research indicates that adolescent girls who use high levels of relational aggression also demonstrate low levels of empathy and caring towards others (Centifanti, et. al 2015). This suggests that the behaviors of gossiping, exclusion and sabotaging relationships may actually be more common among those with existing narcissistic and antisocial traits.
The problem is, the malignant female narcissist rarely outgrows her excessive sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and thirst for interpersonal exploitation – she merely adjusts these traits to her changing environment.
The female narcissist (or sociopath) is just as dangerous as her male counterpart and yet she is protected by prevailing stereotypes of the “gentle young girl,” the “maternal mother,” the “sweet old grandmother,” or minimized by archetypes like the “catty best friend.” No one suspects the older woman, assumed to be nurturing and sweet, to be vindictive, cruel and ruthless. Nor do they expect mothers to abandon, neglect or abuse their children.
Yet what happens when the catty best friend from middle school becomes the conniving co-worker in the corporate world, employing underhanded tactics to sabotage her colleagues? Or when the demented narcissistic mother drives her adult children to suicide after years of chronic childhood abuse? Or when the malignant narcissistic girlfriend uses her harem of male admirers to terrorize her significant other?
Female narcissists do not “grow out” of their childhood aggression; eerily enough, they evolve into even more effective aggressive behaviors in adulthood, using their manipulative tactics to serve their selfish agendas and to exploit others.
While it has been estimated that 75% of narcissists are male, this may be due to a bias of women being more likely to be labeled as borderline or histrionic; it may also be due to confusion resulting from differing presentations of certain disorders due to gendered socialization (Sansone & Sansone, 2011). It’s becoming clearer from survivor stories, however, that there are a far greater number of female narcissists than one would assume.