Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Multidimensional Perfectionism, Depression, and Satisfaction with Life: Differences among Perfectionists and Tests of a Stress-Mediation Model

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Multidimensional Perfectionism, Depression, and Satisfaction with Life: Differences among Perfectionists and Tests of a Stress-Mediation Model

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationship between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism, stress, depression, and satisfaction with life in a sample of undergraduate women. The authors found that maladaptive perfectionists had lower satisfaction with life and higher stress and depression scores compared with adaptive perfectionists. Results also indicated that stress mediated the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and depression and between both maladaptive and adaptive perfectionism and satisfaction with life. Implications for college counselors are discussed.

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College counseling center professionals have expressed a growing interest in the personality trait of perfectionism. For instance, the Research Consortium of Counseling and Psychological Services to Higher Education (1998) reported that 21% of men and 26% of women seeking counseling at college counseling centers reported that perfectionism was "quite distressing or extremely distressing" to them. More recent studies (e.g., Rice & Ashby, 2007) have identified two categories of perfectionism--adaptive or maladaptive--with maladaptive perfectionism being significantly associated with higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem (Ashby, Rice, & Martin, 2006). In contrast to the problematic nature of maladaptive perfectionism, adaptive perfectionism has been shown to be associated with a number of positive outcomes, including higher self-esteem (e.g., Rice & Dellwo, 2002), positive stress-coping strategies (Rice & Lapsley, 2001), higher levels of assertiveness and life direction (Ward & Ashby, 2008), and greater self-efficacy in career decision making (Ganske & Ashby, 2007).

The identified distinctions between maladaptive and adaptive perfectionism are consistent with the earlier conceptual work of Hamachek (1978) identifying two distinct groups of perfectionists: "normal" and "neurotic." According to Hamachck, neurotic perfectionists arc those individuals who hold high personal standards but are incapable of feelings of fulfillment even when those standards are attained. As a result, these perfectionists experience "impaired health, poor self-control, troubled personal relationships, low self-esteem, ... depression, and anxiety" (Burns, 1980, p. 34). Normal perfectionists, similar to their neurotic counterparts, are also people who hold high standards, but they allow themselves to be less exacting in their work as the circumstances allow (Hamachck, 1978). As a result, "normal perfectionists tend to enhance their self-esteem, rejoice in their skills, and appreciate a job well-done" (Hamachck, 1978, p. 27).

Despite the evidence that different types of perfectionism are related to differential psychological outcomes, Chang (2000) noted that "the influence of perfectionism on indices of positive and negative psychological outcomes has yet to be fully examined or understood" (p. 19). However, one promising line of inquiry has identified stress as an important factor in the relationship between perfectionism and psychological outcomes (e.g., Blankstein & Dunkley, 2002). Chang (2000) specifically identified stress as a possible mediator of perfectionism and psychological outcome, positing that perfectionist tendencies result in different levels of stress, which in turn result in unhealthy outcomes.

Several studies have investigated the possible mediational role of stress in the relationship between perfectionism and psychological outcomes. For instance, Chang (2000) used the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Frost MPS; Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990) to yield an overall perfectionism score, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983) to measure level of stress, and several outcome measures to test a stress-mediation model. Chang found that stress fully mediated the relationship between perfectionism and life satisfaction and partially mediated the relationship between perfectionism and worry and between perfectionism and negative affect. …

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