Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Adaptive and Maladaptive Perfectionism as Mediators of Adult Attachment Styles and Depression, Hopelessness, and Life Satisfaction

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Adaptive and Maladaptive Perfectionism as Mediators of Adult Attachment Styles and Depression, Hopelessness, and Life Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Over the past decade, counselors have become keenly interested in how individuals develop different adult attachment styles and perfectionism dimensions over the life span (e.g., Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998; Wei, Heppner, Russell, & Young, 2006). Stoeber and Otto (2006) and another author (e.g., Hamachek, 1978) have argued that two formations of perfectionism can be identified: maladaptive perfectionism and adaptive perfectionism. Maladaptive perfectionism is associated with extreme self-criticalness and a persistent sense of failure to live up to personal high standards of performance. Conversely, adaptive perfectionism is associated with a sense of individual striving toward personal high standards without a crippling self-critical voice when these elevated standards are not met.

A considerable body of research has developed supporting the multidimensional nature of perfectionism. For instance, both the standards and self-criticism dimensions of perfectionism can be measured by the Standards and Discrepancy subscales of the Almost Perfection Scale-Revised (APS-R; Slaney, Rice, Mobley, Trippi, & Ashby, 2001). When partialling out the overlap between the two dimensions, as noted in recent studies (e.g., Ashby, Dickinson, Gnilka, & Noble, 2011; Ashby, Noble, & Gnilka, 2012; Rice, Leever, Christopher, & Porter, 2006; Rice, Tucker, & Desmond, 2008), the high standards dimension is positively associated with multiple positive outcomes, such as lower levels of depressive symptoms, a decreased sense of hopelessness, increased levels of hope, and a higher sense of life satisfaction. On the other hand, the discrepancy dimension is associated with multiple negative outcomes, such as increased levels of depressive symptoms, increased feelings of hopelessness, lower levels of self-esteem, and higher usage of unhelpful coping strategies (Dunkley, Sanislow, Grilo, & McGlashan, 2006; Dunkley, Zuroff, & Blankstein, 2003; Rice, Ashby, & Slaney, 1998; Rice et al., 2006). While researchers have investigated how various perfectionism dimensions are related to various psychological outcomes, investigators are starting to explore the precursors to the development of perfectionism. One promising construct that has gained increased attention is adult attachment.

Similar to perfectionism, considerable research notes that adult attachment can be viewed in two dimensions: attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance (Brennan et al., 1998). Adults with high levels of adult attachment anxiety report feelings of rejection and abandonment and can easily feel overwhelmed by negative emotions; in addition, adults with high levels of adult attachment avoidance may feel uneasy with being close to others and have a high need for independence and self-reliance. Adults who report low levels of both anxiety and avoidance are considered to have the ability for more stable and secure attachments with others (Besser & Priel, 2003; Brenan et al., 1998; Lopez & Brennan, 2000). Both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance can be measured by the Anxiety and Avoidance subscales of the Experiences in Close Relationship Questionnaire-Revised (ECR-R; Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000). Higher levels of either or both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance are associated with various psychological outcomes, including low self-confidence (Lopez & Gormley, 2002), ineffective coping strategies (Lopez & Gormley, 2002), low self-esteem (Rice & Lopez, 2004), and high levels of depression (Wei, Mallinckrodt, Russell, & Abraham, 2004; Wei et al., 2006).

Over the past decade, only a few studies have used more complex models to explain the relationships between attachment, perfectionism, and psychological outcome.

In one of the first studies investigating the relationship between attachment and perfectionism, Rice and Mirzadeh (2000) concluded that maladaptive perfectionism and insecure parental attachment were related, whereas adaptive perfectionism and secure parental attachment were related. …

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