Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

Story highlights

Children whose parents overvalue them more likely to be narcissists, according to study

Parents who overvalue their kids tend to think their children are better and smarter than others

Kids who felt warmth from their parents more likely to have higher self-esteem, study found

CNN  — 

Everyone knows a narcissist – or two or three or four. We may work with one or be married to one (not true in my case, just for the record!) or have grown up with one. But are we raising one?

We could be, according to a new study, which found that children whose parents overvalued them were more likely to develop narcissistic traits, such as superiority and entitlement.

What exactly does it mean to “overvalue” children, asks this reporter and mom of two who wants to make sure her love and devotion to her daughters, ages 7 and 8, isn’t going to lead to unintended consequences?

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For answers, I called up Eddie Brummelman, one of the study’s co-authors and a postdoctoral researcher at the Research Institute of Child Development and Education at the University of Amsterdam.

Brummelman said he and his fellow researchers asked parents questions such as whether they think their child is more special than others or deserves something extra in life – questions they determined in a previous study could assess and rate overvaluation.

They also asked parents how smart they thought their children were and then measured the children’s actual IQs.

“And what we found was that parents who overvalue, they think their child is very smart but in reality, the child isn’t smarter than others,” said Brummelman, who did the research for the study while at Utrecht University in the Netherlands along with researchers from the University of Southampton in England and Ohio State University

Finally, the researchers made up book titles such as “The Tale of Benson Bunny” and names of newsmakers such as “Queen Alberta” and asked the parents if their children knew them.

Parents can’t help teens get any smarter

Lo and behold, the parents who overvalued their kids said their children were familiar with things – such as books or people – that didn’t even exist.

The study involved 565 children in the Netherlands between the ages of 7 and 12, since those are the years when children, the research shows, are able to evaluate themselves as compared to others.

“You not only think you’re great but you think you are better than others,” said Brummelman.

Is narcissism a bad quality for kids?

While many of us might think narcissists are simply an annoyance, narcissistic behavior in children can lead to aggression and larger problems, he said.

“It’s a very young field of research but what we do know is that narcissistic children … feel more entitled than others and they want to be admired by others,” said Brummelman. “When they feel they don’t get the admiration they want, when they are humiliated or when they are rejected, they tend to lash out aggressively, so it predicts provoked aggression.”

Narcissists want weddings, not marriage

Narcissistic children are also prone to experience emotional extremes when they are praised or not praised, and those who also have low self-esteem could suffer from anxiety and depression, he added.

“I also know there are people who claim that narcissism also has a sunny side but there’s much less evidence consistent with that view.”

But how does one differentiate between narcissism and self-esteem in children? If your child thinks he or she is special, does that make him or her a narcissist or just confident?