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Voicing the Victims of Narcissistic Partners: A Qualitative Analysis of Responses to Narcissistic Injury and Self-Esteem Regulation

Green, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-4683-0793 & Charles, K. (2019). Voicing the Victims of Narcissistic Partners: A Qualitative Analysis of Responses to Narcissistic Injury and Self-Esteem Regulation. SAGE Open, 9(2), doi: 10.1177/2158244019846693


Addressing an underresearched aspect of narcissism, this study investigated subclinical “grandiose” and “vulnerable” narcissism within the context of domestic violence. Common triggers evoking narcissistic rage and differences in narcissistic injury response were explored. Qualitative semi-structured interviews with seven participants who reported being in a relationship with a narcissistic partner were thematically analyzed. Three overarching themes emerged: (a) overt and covert expressions of abuse, (b) challenge to self-perceived authority, and (c) fear of abandonment. Findings suggest both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists’ reactions to narcissistic injury are most likely covertly and overtly aggressive and violent; however, the underlying motives for the behavior differed. For grandiose narcissists, violence was commonly triggered by threats to self-esteem, whereas vulnerable narcissists commonly experienced significant injury and rage from fear of abandonment. It is argued that attempts to regulate and restore self-esteem for the two subtypes of narcissistic presentation will differ, thus providing further support for theoretical distinctions between grandiose and vulnerable narcissists in intimate relationships. It is concluded that popular images of the narcissist are overly simplistic as the personality trait is more complex than the grandiose type typically presented. This study contributes new understanding to the nature of narcissism in domestic violence. Limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Publisher Keywords: narcissism, narcissistic injury, rage, domestic violence
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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