Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Perfectionism, Friendship Intimacy, and Depressive Affect in Transitioning University Students: A Longitudinal Study Using Mixed Methods

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Perfectionism, Friendship Intimacy, and Depressive Affect in Transitioning University Students: A Longitudinal Study Using Mixed Methods

Article excerpt

Perfectionism is associated with relationship problems, an inability to handle stress, and depressive affect (Chang & Rand, 2000; Hewitt, Flett, Sherry, & Caelian, 2006; Mackinnon et al., 2012). Most researchers agree perfectionism is multidimensional, with the distinction between self-imposed and socially based dimensions of perfectionism featuring prominently in many models (Dunkley, Blankstein, Hallsall, Williams, & Winkworth, 2000; Hewitt, Flett, Besser, Sherry, & McGee, 2003; Stoeber & Otto, 2006). This distinction is central to Hewitt and Flett's (1991) model of perfectionism, which distinguishes between self-oriented and interpersonal forms of perfectionism. Specifically, Hewitt and Flett (1991) describe three dimensions of perfectionism. Socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) is a belief or perception that other people set unrealistic standards, exert pressure to be perfect, and harshly evaluate all performance. Self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) involves rigidly setting unrealistically high standards for oneself and stringently evaluating one's own behaviour. Otheroriented perfectionism involves setting unrealistically high standards of perfection for others and stringently evaluating others' performance. Research supports the reliability and validity of these dimensions (Hewitt & Flett, 2004). In the present study, we focus on SOP and SPP because evidence suggests other-oriented perfectionism is generally unrelated to depressive affect (Hewitt & Flett. 1991). Specifically, we test a moderator model of perfectionism and depressive affect which posits the relationship between perfectionism and depressive affect is intensified by interpersonal problems that have become incorporated into a person's autobiographical narrative.

Perfectionism and Depressive Affect

Depressive affect refers to the negative emotional states associated with depression, such as sadness, distress, and irritability and can be distinguished from somatic features of depression such as sleep disturbances or changes in appetite (Shafer, 2006). SOP is an inconsistent predictor of depressive affect in longitudinal research, with some research supporting SOP as a risk factor for increased depressive affect (Hewitt, Flett, & Ediger, 1996; Joiner & Schmidt, 1995) although other research fails to support these findings (Graham et al" 2010; Chang & Rand, 2000). In general, more research supports SPP as a longitudinal predictor of depressive affect (Cox, Clara, & Enns, 2009; Hewitt et al., 1996; Joiner & Schmidt, 1995); however, other research fails to support this relationship (Cox & Enns, 2003; Enns & Cox, 2005). This inconsistent pattem suggests the perfectionism-depressive affect relationship may be moderated by a third variable.

Ego-Involving Stressors as a Moderator

Hewitt and Flett (1993) suggested that stress moderates the relationship between perfectionism and depressive affect. That is, perfectionism predicts increased depressive affect only in the presence of a salient stressor. However, Hewitt and Flett (1993) also argued that stressors will only interact with perfectionism to predict increased depressive affect if the stressor is ego-involving. In other words, the stressor must occur in an area closely tied to a perfectionist's sense of identity and self-worth in order to trigger depressive affect. People high in SOP are often preoccupied with achieving unrealistically high standards and are hypersensitive to perceived failures in achievement domains; thus, setbacks in achievement-related domains are theorized to be most salient and distressing for people high in SOP (Hewitt & Flett, 2002). In contrast, people high in SPP are thought to be preoccupied with gaining approval and hypersensitive to perceived criticisms from others; thus, disruptions within interpersonal relationships are likely to be more ego-involving and distressing for them (Hewitt & Flett, 2002). …

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