Exploring the Connection Between Failure to Launch and Narcissism

In this informative article, we define failure to launch narcissism. In addition, we examine the connection between the two conditions.

Failure to Launch Narcissism: An Important Relationship to Examine

There are lots of concepts that play a role in the delicate interplay of human psychology. However, two concepts that invite intriguing examination are failure to launch and narcissism. 

You might be very familiar with what narcissism means but remain unfamiliar with failure to launch (FTL). That’s not surprising; after all, although the phenomenon known as “failure to launch” is common, it’s not often talked about. 

failure to launch narcissism

Failure to Launch Narcissism: What is the Connection?

Studies have shown that failure to launch narcissism is a present issue in society today. These studies have also demonstrated that although they are different conditions, there is a definitive link between the two. 

In this article, we’ll examine the connection between failure to launch and narcissism. We’ll consider what failure to launch is and if it’s an official diagnosis. We’ll then explore some common traits of a failure to launch diagnosis. We’ll also look at how narcissism can cause failure to launch.

What Is Failure to Launch?

Failure to Launch is a colloquial term that has gained popularity in the fields of psychology and sociology. It describes a phenomenon where young adults struggle to transition from their parent’s homes into independent adult life.1

This condition signifies a delay or lack of progression into the societal roles and expectations associated with adulthood. Examples of these expectations include completing education and establishing a career. 

Other examples include becoming financially independent and forming long-term romantic partnerships.

How Did Failure to Launch Become a Recognized Condition?

The term gained traction after the release of a 2006 romantic comedy film “Failure to Launch.” The comedy portrayed a 30-something-year-old man who continued to live with his parents. He also resisted assuming adult responsibilities. 

The movie might have been humorous; however, the issues underlying the failure to launch syndrome are anything but comical. They are complex and multifaceted and can be deeply distressing for the people and families involved.

It’s important to clarify that failure to launch is not an official diagnosis. It is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is the primary tool mental health professionals use for diagnostic purposes. 

Failure to Launch Narcissism: What Causes Failure to Launch?

While it’s not a classified disorder, failure to launch can be symptomatic of various underlying mental health issues. 

These can include the following:

  • Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder and dependent personality disorder 
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Or even learning disabilities

All of these conditions may affect a person’s ability to cope with the demands of adult life.

What External Factors Contribute to Failure to Launch?

In addition, failure to launch may be influenced by various external factors. Examples include the following:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • The state of the economy
  • Societal and cultural expectations
  • And parenting styles

For example, young adults may find it more difficult to secure stable employment. This is especially true in a challenging economic environment. This can affect their ability to achieve independent living. 

Similarly, parenting approaches that involve overprotection play a role here. They can unintentionally hinder a child’s development of autonomy, resilience, and life skills. Thus, contributing to a failure to launch.

Traits Of Failure to Launch Narcissism

Understanding the traits of failure to launch narcissism is crucial. It helps in unraveling the complexities inherent in this psychological interplay. Failure to launch narcissism generates a unique set of effects. 

These effects can impact an individual’s development, relationships, and overall functioning. Some common traits of failure to launch narcissism include the following:

Lack of Self-sufficiency

One of the defining traits of failure to launch narcissism is a noticeable lack of self-sufficiency. Here, people with this trait struggle to become independent.  This struggle remains even when they have all the necessary resources and opportunities they need. 

This lack of self-sufficiency can manifest in the following ways:

  • An inability to maintain consistent employment
  • Inability to manage personal finances
  • Or an inability to carry out basic adult responsibilities

Grandiose Sense of Self-importance

Another prominent trait of failure to launch narcissism is a grandiose sense of self-importance. Narcissistic individuals often hold an inflated self-perception. They believe that they are superior, special, or unique. 

This inflated self-view may result in unrealistic expectations from others to cater to their every need. Thus, further contributing to their failure to launch.


Entitlement is another trait often seen in failure to launch narcissism. These people might feel that the world owes them a comfortable life without them having to work for it. 

This sense of entitlement can severely hamper their progress toward independence. This is especially true when it is combined with a lack of self-sufficiency.

Manipulative or Exploitative Behavior

People with failure to launch narcissism may resort to manipulative or exploitative behaviors. They may manipulate their family or friends into supporting them. 

Thus, further preventing them from assuming adult responsibilities and reaching autonomy.

Lack of Empathy

Lack of empathy is a defining characteristic of narcissism. It is often evident in failure to launch narcissism. This refers to the inability to understand or share the feelings of others. 

It often results in strained interpersonal relationships. Thus, causing further difficulties in the journey toward independence.


A significant trait of failure to launch narcissism is a tendency to remain dependent on others, particularly parents or caregivers. This dependency is not just financial but emotional as well. 

Although affected individuals have narcissistic traits, they may lack the emotional maturity needed to navigate the challenges of adulthood independently.

Resistance to Change or Growth

Those with failure to launch narcissism may show a marked resistance to change or personal growth. Despite repeated challenges or setbacks, they may remain stuck in their ways. 

They are usually unwilling or unable to make necessary changes to move toward independence.

Difficulty Accepting Responsibility

One other key trait of failure to launch narcissism is difficulty in accepting personal responsibility. Blame is often externalized, with failures or shortcomings attributed to others or circumstances rather than their own actions or lack of initiative.2

Failure To Launch Narcissism: Understanding the Link Between Failure to Launch and Narcissism

To understand the relationship between failure to launch and narcissism, we first need to delve into the essence of these two concepts. 

As discussed, failure to launch syndrome is a situation in which young adults struggle to achieve the expected level of independence. 

Narcissism is characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, entitlement, and a lack of empathy for others.3

Failure to Launch Narcissism: Shared Traits of Both Conditions

The relationship between failure to launch and narcissism is not linear or universally applicable. However, the interplay can be quite intricate and impactful in certain individuals. 

These two phenomena can be expounded upon through several overlapping factors. Some of these factors include the following:


One of the key traits of narcissism is an exaggerated sense of entitlement. In failure to launch syndrome, this sense of entitlement can manifest as an expectation that parents or others should provide for their needs indefinitely.

Grandiosity and Unrealistic Expectations

People with failure to launch narcissism might aspire to high-status roles. However, they would display an unwillingness to put in the necessary effort or start from more humble beginnings. 

Their grandiosity prevents them from accepting jobs or responsibilities they perceive to be beneath them. 

Dependency and Manipulation

Narcissistic people often depend heavily on others for their needs. As such, they manipulate them into providing ongoing support. 

In the case of failure to launch, this can lead to a prolonged reliance on parents or caregivers. The individual with failure to launch narcissism resists taking on adult roles and responsibilities.


Narcissists tend to avoid taking responsibility for their failures. They often shift blame for their failures onto others. In failure to launch scenarios, this trait can manifest as a continual avoidance of adult responsibilities. 

Here, the individual constantly blames external circumstances or others for their inability to launch.

Commonalities and Differences

Note that the relationship between failure to launch and narcissism is not a direct cause-and-effect. However, the two can influence and exacerbate each other. It’s important to note that not all people experiencing failure to launch exhibit narcissistic traits. 

Also, not all narcissists struggle with failure to launch. Each person’s situation is unique. As such, it must be understood within their specific contextual and psychological circumstances.

Failure To Launch Narcissism: What Are the Risk Factors?

The potential risk factors that may lead to or worsen failure to launch narcissism are multifaceted. They can be psychological, social, and even economic in nature. 

Some of the common risk factors of failure to launch narcissism include the following:

Parenting Styles

Overly permissive or neglectful parenting can contribute to failure to launch syndrome narcissism. Parents who consistently indulge their child’s needs without setting appropriate boundaries can foster a sense of entitlement. 

This eventually leads to narcissistic traits. Likewise, parents who don’t provide emotional support or guidance can prevent their children from developing the necessary skills for independence.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

These include events such as abuse, neglect, and other forms of household dysfunction. ACEs can increase the risk of various mental health issues. A common example is narcissistic personality disorder.

Genetic Predisposition

Just as some people are genetically predisposed to anxiety or depression, there may be a genetic component to narcissism as well. Some research has suggested that personality disorders can run in families.

Socioeconomic Status

Economic pressures can exacerbate failure to launch syndrome. For instance, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may lack access to opportunities that facilitate independence. This includes opportunities like higher education or stable jobs.

Mental Health Disorders

This includes conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other learning disabilities. These conditions can make it difficult for individuals to reach traditional milestones. 

They may struggle with organization, motivation, and the ability to handle stressors, leading to a failure to launch. 

Substance Use

Substance use can derail an individual’s path to independence and contribute to failure to launch syndrome. It also often co-occurs with personality disorders, including narcissism.

Dependence on Technology

Technology has many benefits. However, over-reliance can lead to several negative effects. Examples include social isolation, poor interpersonal skills, and a lack of motivation to engage in real-world experiences. These can contribute to failure to launch syndrome and potentially promote narcissistic behaviors.

Cultural Factors

In some cultures, extended adolescence or delayed independence may be more accepted or even encouraged. This can, in turn, contribute to failure to launch.4

Additionally, societal emphasis on individual success and recognition can potentially promote narcissistic tendencies. It’s important to note that these risk factors can interact and influence each other.

Failure To Launch Narcissism: The Importance of Taking Initiative

Taking the initiative to grow can help individuals break free from a cycle of dependency and inertia. It can help to work toward achieving personal independence and self-sufficiency. 

Additional benefits of taking initiative include:

  • Developing essential life skills like time management
  • Improving employability, leading to greater financial independence
  • Increasing emotional intelligence, resilience, and self-confidence
  • Reducing feelings of aimlessness and increasing feelings of self-worth
  • Breaking free from dependence on parents, guardians, or others 
  • And improving interpersonal relationships
failure to launch narcissism

Failure to Launch Narcissism: Find Help at Choice House

Failure to launch narcissism is a pervasive problem that can inhibit an individual’s ability to live the life they want. Though not an official diagnosis, failure to launch is a serious condition that impacts personal development, financial freedom, and interpersonal relationships. 

Choice House offers a path forward for men (and their families) struggling with failure to launch narcissism. If you have found the transition into independent adulthood difficult, Choice House can help. 

What We Offer

At Choice House, we offer various treatment options to help individuals break free from failure to launch narcissism. Our programs help to find meaning and purpose in life through honesty, integrity, and  dedication to personal growth.

Our expert team of clinicians understands that many factors contribute to the development of dependency and narcissistic traits. At Choice House, we aim to address the underlying issues that impact individuals’ ability to function independently. 

Find Help at Choice House

Failure to launch narcissism can be challenging to overcome. But with the proper support and care, individuals can achieve freedom and independence. If you’re ready to begin your journey to a healthy, fulfilling life, contact us today