Anyone who’s been around a teenager recently or turned on MTV at any given time probably has an easy time calling adolescents self-absorbed. But University of Illinois psychologists discovered that a little bit of narcissism is actually a good thing, and helps teens successfully cross the threshold into adulthood.

The study, which was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, looked at 368 undergraduate college students and 439 of their family members. It analyzed the narcissistic traits of the students as well as their mothers, and found that much of the narcissism seen in teenagers goes away over time. The reason for the decrease, researchers said, is because narcissistic traits become less useful to the teens as they grow up. In adults, researchers found that narcissism is actually a hinderance.

In an interview with ScienceDaily, researcher Patrick Hill said the research looked at three different forms of narcissism, and the impacts they have at each age:

“The first, an inflated sense of leadership or authority, is the belief ‘that you know a lot and people should come to you for advice,’ he said. The second is ‘grandiose exhibitionism,’ being pompous, wanting to show off, and having an exaggerated sense of one’s capabilities and talents. The third is a sense of entitlement and a willingness to exploit others for personal gain.

In the study, young people who were high in the leadership and grandiose exhibitionism forms of narcissism were likely to report higher life satisfaction and well-being, while mothers who had the same traits were not.

A sense of entitlement or willingness to exploit others for personal gain predicted lower life satisfaction at every age, however.

In general, participants had a lower opinion of those with narcissistic traits. Narcissistic mothers, in particular, tended to be viewed as neurotic and low in conscientiousness, the researchers found. Students who were narcissistic were not generally judged to be neurotic, but they and their narcissistic mothers were more likely to be viewed as low in ‘agreeableness.’

And, if teens retain this grandiose self-image as they enter adulthood, researcher Brent Roberts said these negative judgements “could have quite interesting negative ramifications for people’s circumstances in middle and old age.”