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Perfectionism and its relationship to the depressive feelings of gifted Filipino adolescents.

About ten percent of all the adolescent students in the Philippines are defined as gifted in the sense that they possess rare ability and superior intelligence or talent (Cuartero, 2013). Gifted individuals are aware that that they are gifted, especially so if they have been selected to attend a special school for the academically talented sponsored by the government.

Some of these students become perfectionistic. Perfectionism can be defined as setting standards beyond reach and reason and never being satisfied with anything less than perfection (Hassan, Abd-El-Fattah, Abd-El-Maugoud, & Badary, 2012). According to Christopher & Shewmaker, (2010) and Flett, Hewitt, Boucher, Davidson, & Munro (2000), there are two dimensions of perfectionism: socially prescribed and self-oriented. Socially prescribed perfectionism is the internalized expectation of perfection stemming from "other" people. Self-oriented perfectionism is characterized by setting high perfectionistic standards for one's self. This can compel an individual to higher levels of effort and achievement.

According to Frost and colleagues (1990), perfectionism is linked with negative psychological outcomes. One of the possible negative psychological outcomes that can be attributed to perfectionism is depression (Black & Reynolds, 2013; Fry & Debats, 2009). Sherry, Sherry, Hewitt, Mushquash, and Flett (2014) found that socially prescribed perfectionism and depression were positively correlated in college students, and Huggins, Davis, Rooney, and Kane (2008) also found that socially prescribed perfectionism was a significant indicator of depression for preadolescents. Christopher and Shewmaker (2010) confirmed the relationship between depression and socially prescribed perfectionism in gifted children, but their sample consisted of mostly Caucasian children from Texas.

People sometimes become depressed if they do not satisfy their needs (Landolt, et al., 2012). Since people who are gifted have exceptional abilities, they sometimes set goals that are exceedingly high and unrealistic, which could lead to depression if they do not meet those standards (Jackson & Peterson, 2003). Thus, perfectionism and depression can hinder the performance and impede the development of a gifted individual's potential (2003).

The purpose of our study was to determine the relationship between the two kinds of perfectionism and depression in gifted Filipino adolescents. Depression is more commonly found in female children than in male children (Nietzel, Speltz, McCauley, & Bernstein, 1998), so we did separate analyses.

Based on the extant literature we predicted that socially prescribed (but not self oriented) perfectionism would be significantly related to depression among gifted Filipino adolescents. Since previous studies have shown no gender differences in either self oriented or socially prescribed perfectionism (Flatt, Blankstein, Hewitt, & Koledin, 1992; Hassan, Abd-El-Fattah, Abd-El-Maugoud, & Badary, 2012; Hewitt & Flett, 1991), we also predicted no gender difference.



One hundred seventy-three students (66 males & 107 females), with ages ranging from 13 to 17 years old (M = 15.09; SD = 1.29) enrolled in two government-run schools for the gifted, participated by answering the survey questionnaires in this study.


Beck's Depression Inventory. Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI) is a twenty-one item self-report inventory that measures depression in a 4point Likert scale ranging from 0-3. With reference to each BDI statement, a response of 0 means the respondent feels normal or does not feel any changes and a response of 3 means extreme changes or extreme feelings are present. Based on a study done by Beck, Steer, and Carbin (1988) of the psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory, the scale was found to have good validity and a reliability coefficient alpha of .81 for non-psychiatric subjects.

Child--Adolescent Perfectionism Scale. The Child--Adolescent Perfectionism Scale (CAPS; Flett, Hewitt, Boucher, Davidson, & Munro, 2000) is a 22-item scale that measures self-oriented perfectionism and socially prescribed perfectionism. It was based on Hewitt and Flett's Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS). According to Hewitt & Flett (1991), self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) refers to having irrational expectations and standards about ones self that leads to perfectionistic motivation; a sample item is "I try to be perfect in every thing I do." Socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) stems from significant others who expect a person to be perfect; an example would be parents who push their children to achieve high grades and make them feel that they must meet their parents' lofty expectations (Hewitt & Flett, 1991). The reliability coefficient for socially prescribed perfectionism is .86 and it is .72 for self-oriented perfectionism in adolescent students (Bass & Siyez, 2010).


The researchers acquired parental consent for each student prior to the administration of the survey questionnaires. Facilitated by a teacher, the survey questionnaires were administered by the researchers in the schools' regular classroom during a particular class schedule and time. The instructions to the BDI and CAPS were read aloud to the participants by a researcher and students were told to circle their responses to each item in the two scales. The procedure was completed in about 20 minutes.


Because sex differences are commonly found in research on depression we conducted separate analyses by gender. For males (n = 66) the correlation between BDI and SOP was r = .09 p > .05; the correlation between BDI and SPP was r = .25, p < .05. The correlation between SOP and SPP was r = .44, p < .01. For females (n = 107) the correlation between BDI and SOP was r = .12, p > .05; the correlation between BDI and SPP was r = .26, p < .01. The correlation between SOP and SPP was r = .47, p < .01.

The BDI mean for males was M = 16.97, SD = 8.96; the BDI mean for females was M = 17.89, SD = 9.29; t (171) = -.64, p = .52. The SOP mean for males was M = 40.05, SD = 7.02; the SOP mean for females was M = 42.23, SD = 7.08; t (171) = -1.98, p = .05. The SPP mean for males was M = 31.61, SD = 6.28; the SPP mean for females was M = 30.41, SD = 6.26; t (171) = 1.22, p = .23.


The research findings were consistent with our hypotheses. The results showed that depression was significantly related with socially prescribed perfectionism for both males and females, but not with self-oriented perfectionism. We also predicted and found no gender differences on the SPP, though there was a marginally significant difference on the SOP. Females did score slightly higher than males on the BDI, as might be expected from the literature on gender differences in depression, but the difference was nonsignificant.

Our findings are consistent with the results of Sherry, Sherry, Hewitt, Mushquash, and Flett (2014), which explored perfectionism and depressive symptoms in college undergraduates. They found that socially prescribed perfectionism and depression are positively correlated. Christopher and Shewmaker (2010) confirmed the relationship between depression and socially prescribed perfectionism in gifted and highly able children. Gifted children who showed high levels of both socially prescribed and self oriented perfectionism tended toward higher levels of anxiety in their study. Huggins, Davis, Rooney, and Kane (2008) also found out that socially prescribed perfectionism was a significant indicator of depression for preadolescents. The much higher scores on SOP as compared to SPP for both genders are consistent with the findings of Hassan, et al., (2012).

Erozkan, Karakas, Ata, & Ayberk, (2011) found perfectionism to be positively correlated to depression and that perfectionism can predict other specific symptoms, such as destructive problem-solving approaches and maladaptive relationship behaviors. They concluded that continued research on perfectionism of high school students is important and relevant, a view with which we heartily concur.

Peterson (2006) highlighted the limited attention given to the unique social and emotional needs of gifted students in many school counseling training programs. They work hard, not to challenge themselves but to avoid failure. Instead of delighting in challenges, they feel drained or depressed when they attempt new ones. They often have low self-esteem and are sensitive to criticism from parents and teachers. They believe that their parents expect them to be perfect, even if the parents have never expressed this expectation (Cardillo, 2014).

Beck's Cognitive Triad Theory of Depression states that negative cognitions, especially those of the self, world and future, are the main cause of depression and that depression caused by these cognitions does not go away easily through their everyday lives (Nemade, Reiss, & Dombeck 2007). Everyone experiences negative cognitions but gifted adolescent students may perceive them differently. Gifted adolescents, as our research suggests, have perfectionistic cognitions that are influenced by their parents and teachers and they are related to feelings of depression (Allen 2003).

Our study supports previous research on the link between socially prescribed perfectionism and depression and it extends it to include adolescents from the Philippines. However, it is correlational, so we do not conclude that depression is causally related to perfectionism.

Nevertheless, we recommend that parents of gifted children and teachers in institutions for the gifted, such as the two from which our sample was obtained, continue to praise academic success and encourage academic excellence, but without insisting that a child must strive to be the very best at everything, and without insisting on reaching for goals that are unrealistic.


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Marc Eric S. Reyes, Kevin Joseph T. Layno, Joseph Reginald E. Castaneda, Anthony A. Collantes, & Michaela Alexis D. Sigua

University of Santo Tomas

Lynn E. McCutcheon

Editor, NAJP

Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. Marc Eric S. Reyes, Department of Psychology, University of Santo Tomas, Philippines. E-mail:
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Author:Reyes, Marc Eric S.; Layno, Kevin Joseph T.; Castaneda, Joseph Reginald E.; Collantes, Anthony A.; S
Publication:North American Journal of Psychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 1, 2015
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