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Vulnerable Narcissism Is (Mostly) a Disorder of Neuroticism

Journal of Personality

Published online on


Objective Increasing attention has been paid to the distinction between the dimensions of narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability. We examine the degree to which basic traits underlie vulnerable narcissism, with a particular emphasis on the importance of Neuroticism and Agreeableness. Method Across four samples (undergraduate, online community, clinical‐community), we conduct dominance analyses to partition the variance predicted in vulnerable narcissism by the Five‐Factor Model personality domains, as well as compare the empirical profiles generated by vulnerable narcissism and Neuroticism. Results These analyses demonstrate that the lion's share of variance is explained by Neuroticism (65%) and Agreeableness (19%). Similarity analyses were also conducted in which the extent to which vulnerable narcissism and Neuroticism share similar empirical networks was tested using an array of criteria, including self‐, informant, and thin slice ratings of personality; interview‐based ratings of personality disorder and pathological traits; and self‐ratings of adverse events and functional outcomes. The empirical correlates of vulnerable narcissism and Neuroticism were nearly identical (MrICC = .94). Partial analyses demonstrated that the variance in vulnerable narcissism not shared with Neuroticism is largely specific to disagreeableness‐related traits such as distrustfulness and grandiosity. Conclusions These findings demonstrate the parsimony of using basic personality to study personality pathology and have implications for how vulnerable narcissism might be approached clinically.