Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Increase in narcissism and crazy lawyers

A lot of pop psychology has convinced most people that kids need more self-esteem. The NY Times reports on someone who says we have too much, and become narcissistic:
From the triumph of Botox to the rise of social networking and soccer teams that give every kid a trophy, Jean M. Twenge is constantly on the lookout for signs of a narcissism crisis in America. ...

By comparing decades of personality test results, Dr. Twenge has concluded, over and over again, that younger generations are increasingly entitled, self-obsessed and unprepared for the realities of adult life.

And the blame, she says, falls squarely on America’s culture of self-esteem, in which parents praise every child as “special,” and feelings of self-worth are considered a prerequisite to success, rather than a result of it.

“There’s a common perception that self-esteem is key to success, but it turns out it isn’t,” she said. Nonetheless, “young people are just completely convinced that in order to succeed they have to believe in themselves or go all the way to being narcissistic.”
I had a family court judge say that I might be narcissistic, even tho 5 psych evaluations said otherwise. Narcissism has become another meaningless buzzword for people not behaving the way you want.

Other psychologists say she is wrong:
Much of the disagreement between Dr. Twenge and her critics comes down to interpretation. She believes that questions like “I am assertive” and “I like to take responsibility for making decisions” are indicators of narcissism; Dr. Arnett calls them “well within the range of normal personality,” and possibly even “desirable traits.” ...

Dr. Twenge, who grows noticeably irritated at the mention of the paper, calls the analysis invalid because it takes its earliest scores from just two University of California campuses (Berkeley and Santa Cruz) and its most recent scores from a third (Davis). “These are very different college campuses with different cultures and student populations,” she said, adding, “It would be like taking height samples of men from the 1800s and comparing it to recent samples of women and saying, ‘Oh look, height doesn’t change.’ ”
I can speak from first-hand experience that students at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Davis are not very representative of the American population.

If the experts cannot agree on what these narcissism tests mean, they should not be used in routine child custody disputes.

Meanwhile, a lawyer op-ed says:
LAST week, swarms of sun-starved, soon-to-be lawyers emerged from hiding to celebrate completing the bar exam. Passing the exam, however, won’t guarantee them admission to the bar. They also have to demonstrate that they possess the requisite fitness and moral character for the practice of law.

I worry for some of them. Specifically, I worry for those who have passed the exam and lived upright lives but may still be denied admission to the bar — not because of a criminal record or a history of academic misconduct, but because of a mental illness.

It could have happened to me. ...

At the time, I’d been given a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, which wasn’t on the list. So I wasn’t compelled, under penalty of perjury, to answer in the affirmative. I passed the bar exam and was declared “fit.”

In 2008, after I’d already been sworn in, I was given a correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder. But by then I was in the clear. (As it happens, I was lucky twice: after my swearing-in, Georgia added major depressive disorder to its list.)

Not everyone is so fortunate.
Of all the hundreds of problems with our legal system, I don't think that any of them will be solved by licensing more crazy lawyers. Parents in family court get much more psychological testing than lawyers and judges.

In orther psych news, NPR reports on a study that blames bad mothering on genes:
A gene that affects the brain's dopamine system appears to have influenced mothers' behavior during a recent economic downturn, researchers say.

At the beginning of the recession that began in 2007, mothers with the "sensitive" version of a gene called DRD2 became more likely to strike or scream at their children, the researchers say. Mothers with the other "insensitive" version of the gene didn't change their behavior.

But once it appeared that the recession would not become a full-fledged depression, the "sensitive" mothers became less likely than "insensitive" mothers to engage in harsh parenting.
So maybe in the future the dad will ask the mom for a gene test if there is a child custody dispute during a recession.

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