VSL:SCIENCE // Scientists say: kids today have too much self-esteem

Are today’s kids worse than yesterday’s? It’s an old debate that both sides can argue using newly collected data. One recent study finds that American college students have grown measurably more narcissistic over the past 28 years; another, of different methodology, found little increase. Which side should you be taking?

A blogger known as the Last Psychiatrist favors the more damning study, which found that scores by college students on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory have risen 13 percent since 1980; that two thirds of students in 2006 scored higher on the survey than students in 1980; and (ouch!) that the 2006 students were no less narcissistic than 200 celebrities profiled in yet another recent study.

Yes, the Last Psychiatrist is a crank. But he’s an artful crank, and his complaint (“This trend is going to continue, frankly, until we either have a major recession, war, or my generation dies”) reminds us that conflicting results can be as provocative as stark ones. Let science march on — sideways if necessary.

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VSL:SCIENCE // Scientists say: kids today have too much self-esteem