Where does perfectionism come from? A qualitative investigation of perfectionists and nonperfectionists.
Participants comprised 36 (16 male and 20 female) undergraduate students (65% Caucasian; [M.sub.age] = 24.63, SD = 7.52) from a public university in North America. Through semistructured interviews, they answered a set of questions relating to their achievement motivation (e.g., "How important is achievement to you?"). Participants were also asked if they had any perfectionistic qualities or tendencies. Interviewees who answered yes to this question were then asked a series of questions specifically relating to the origins of their perfectionism (e.g., "Where do you think your perfectionistic tendencies come from?"). In this study, 23 participants (64%) identified themselves as perfectionists.
In terms of achievement motivation, perfectionists and nonperfectionists were similar in many areas of inquiry (e.g., believing in the need to work hard in order to succeed and feeling frustrated when unable to complete a task). Results from the interviews, however, indicate a few noteworthy differences between perfectionists and nonperfectionists. For example, although perfectionists and nonperfectionists did not give different ratings of the importance of achievement and success in their lives, perfectionists were more likely than nonperfectionists to say that they felt pressure from their families to succeed and that their parents were overly critical of their mistakes when they were growing up. Contrary to our predictions, however, perfectionists were no more likely to feel pressure from peers or teachers to succeed in life than were nonperfectionists. Sample responses from those describing themselves as perfectionists and nonperfectionists in response to the question "What messages did you get from your family about success and failure?" can be found in Table 1.
Findings from this ongoing investigation may be useful to parents, teachers, counselors, and other professionals who work with perfectionistic individuals. Knowing where perfectionism comes from (as well as what specific socialization experiences might contribute to perfectionistic tendencies) will make it easier to design intervention strategies that encourage adaptive perfectionism in individuals and discourage (or at least help perfectionists manage) the more maladaptive aspects of perfectionism.
Keywords: perfectionism, origin, development, achievement, qualitative investigation.
Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2002). Perfectionism and maladjustment: An overview of theoretical, definitional, and treatment issues. In G. L. Flett & P. L. Hewitt (Eds.), Perfectionism: Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 5-31). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
David R. Hibbard and Gail E. Walton
California State University
David R. Hibbard and Gail E. Walton, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: David R. Hibbard, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico, CA 95929, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table 1. Responses from Perfectionists and Nonperfectionists about Success and Failure Self-descriptions Perfectionists Nonperfectionists What messages "You can always do "Achieving is from family about better next time; you important, but only if success/failure? can try again" you are happy and do your best" "It is very important "Try your hardest, but to them that I succeed" sometimes it is okay to fail; you can pick yourself up" "[If I fail], I would "You can succeed if you not say they were try hard enough, but it disappointed, but they is not worth killing know my potential and yourself over" they expect high standards from me; they think I do not try hard enough" "They are not critical "They are just happy of me, because they when I put the effort think I am critical in" enough of myself already" "If I fail, they call "If something goes me a failure" wrong, try to make it better; but if you fail you are still supported"
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|Author:||Hibbard, David R.; Walton, Gail E.|
|Publication:||Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2012|
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