This week, a high court judge in London ruled that three teenage brothers from London be removed from their mother and put into care. Numerous reasons were cited in the family court hearing, but perhaps strangest of all was that the boys were observed by psychiatrists and social workers to have developed a ‘cult of narcissism’ where they regarded themselves as superior to the world around them. Consequently, they saw no point in attending school, befriending other young people or engaging in activities or relationships outside the home.

Their mother (who suffers unspecified mental health problems) seems to have engendered these attitudes in the boys and kept them in social isolation from an early age. Two of the young teens even developed their own secret language for communicating with each other. The Judge making the recommendations said that all three boys were at risk of emotional harm and should not be returned to the care of their mother.

Research over the last ten years suggests that narcissistic traits are spiralling amongst teens and young adults. Narcissism has been around since we first patted ourselves on the back for walking upright, but the Wall Street/Thatcherite mantras ‘Greed is Good’ and ‘There’s No Such Thing As Society’ gave the cult of toxic individualism a stratospheric boost. Its vapour trail in the generation that followed has grown arms and legs and is still clearly and robustly visible.

We all need a healthy pinch of narcissism but too much and we present a risk of harm to self and others. Especially others, because one of the defining features of full-blown narcissism is a clear and present absence of empathy for the rest of humanity - all relationships are self-serving and experienced as a commodity whose primary purpose is to boost the narcissist’s insatiable ego.

Could it be that the Thatcher-generation parents were so self-absorbed and self-interested that they have produced offspring exactly in their own image and who now carry on the family tradition where the ‘we’ and the ‘us’ have been silenced and crushed under the ever-increasing size of the ‘I’ and the ‘me, me, me’ ?

Perhaps the rise of narcissism was inevitable given the the seismic changes in our society since the end of the Second World War. The breakdown of family and community into smaller, more isolated units whose primary viewing platform is the World Wide Web (as opposed to hanging out the window to see what’s happening on your street or running next door to ask for a cup of sugar or a shilling for the meter) is ideal ground for the propagation of narcissism.

The internet affords us the fantasy of omnipotence where, at the click of a button, your needs are met. You want a new dress at 2am in the morning or a 16 inch pizza at 11pm on a school night, you can have it delivered right to your door. No money to buy it, no problem, just apply for instant credit. Or, better, just text the ‘Bank of Baby Boomer Mum and Dad’ and demand it. They’ll stump up the cash because they don’t want their offspring to suffer in any way at all or, God forbid, experience reality and the limitations of being human.

And because this generation has been reared in a distorted child-centric universe, they, understandably, believe what their parents told them: you’re special, you’re worth it, you’re entitled.

Is it so surprising then that some of them blog and vlog the whole day long on social media, believing wholeheartedly that the world also thinks the minutiae of their lives – from how they mash their avocado onto toast to the brand of wet wipes they use in their personal hygiene routine – are important? This is, after all, what we created.

Paradoxically, at the root of all this ‘me, myself, and I’, many younger people feel lonely, unseen and have no sense of belonging. Maybe the values of consumerism and commodification they inherited from their parents just aren’t enough. Electronic devices - no matter how smart and shiny - are no match for real contact with a real world in a real community. The best antidote for florid narcissistic traits is plain, old-fashioned humility. When I was a child at school, we were too often reminded of our lowly status in life, to be seen and not heard. It didn’t exactly build confidence and caused its own kind of problems, but it did position the notion of ‘others’ squarely at the centre of the world. Looking back, maybe they had something there.