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Multidimensional perfectionism and narcissism: Grandiose or vulnerable?

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Multidimensional perfectionism is related to grandiose narcissism, with other-oriented perfectionism showing the strongest, most consistent relationships. The relationships with vulnerable narcissism, however, are unclear. Our study investigated how three forms of perfectionism—self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism (Hewitt & Flett, 1991)—are related to narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability. A sample of 375 university students completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and Pathological Narcissism Inventory (Pincus et al., 2009) capturing various facets of narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability. Multiple regressions were conducted controlling for the overlap between the three forms of perfectionism and gender. Other-oriented perfectionism showed unique positive relationships with key facets of grandiose narcissism. In contrast, socially prescribed perfectionism showed positive relationships with all facets of vulnerable narcissism. Self- and other-oriented perfectionism showed positive relationships with individual facets only. Other-oriented perfectionism appears to represent a form of perfectionism predominantly related to narcissistic grandiosity, whereas socially prescribed perfectionism is predominantly related to narcissistic vulnerability. As the first study to examine perfectionism in relation to narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability, our research both extends and clarifies the nomological network of the perfectionism construct in important ways.
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Multidimensional perfectionism and narcissism: Grandiose
or vulnerable?
Joachim Stoeber
a,
, Simon B. Sherry
b
, Logan J. Nealis
b
a
School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom
b
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada
article info
Article history:
Received 29 January 2015
Received in revised form 16 February 2015
Accepted 20 February 2015
Keywords:
Multidimensional perfectionism
Narcissism
Grandiosity
Vulnerability
Pathological narcissism
Hypersensitive narcissism
Gender
abstract
Multidimensional perfectionism is related to grandiose narcissism, with other-oriented perfectionism
showing the strongest, most consistent relationships. The relationships with vulnerable narcissism, how-
ever, are unclear. Our study investigated how three forms of perfectionism—self-oriented, other-oriented,
and socially prescribed perfectionism (Hewitt & Flett, 1991)—are related to narcissistic grandiosity and
vulnerability. A sample of 375 university students completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory
(Raskin & Terry, 1988), Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and Pathological
Narcissism Inventory (Pincus et al., 2009) capturing various facets of narcissistic grandiosity and vul-
nerability. Multiple regressions were conducted controlling for the overlap between the three forms of
perfectionism and gender. Other-oriented perfectionism showed unique positive relationships with
key facets of grandiose narcissism. In contrast, socially prescribed perfectionism showed positive rela-
tionships with all facets of vulnerable narcissism. Self- and other-oriented perfectionism showed positive
relationships with individual facets only. Other-oriented perfectionism appears to represent a form of
perfectionism predominantly related to narcissistic grandiosity, whereas socially prescribed perfection-
ism is predominantly related to narcissistic vulnerability. As the first study to examine perfectionism
in relation to narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability, our research both extends and clarifies the nomo-
logical network of the perfectionism construct in important ways.
Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
1.1. Multidimensional perfectionism
Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by striving for
flawlessness, setting exceedingly high standards of performance,
and evaluating one’s behavior in an overly critical way (Flett &
Hewitt, 2002; Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990).
Evidence suggests perfectionism is best conceptualized as multidi-
mensional (Enns & Cox, 2002), with different forms of perfection-
ism each having their own unique characteristics.
One of the most influential and widely researched conceptual-
izations of multidimensional perfectionism is Hewitt and Flett’s
(1991) model, which differentiates three forms of perfectionism:
self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed. Self-oriented
perfectionism comprises internally motivated beliefs that striving
for perfection and being perfect are important. Self-oriented
perfectionists have exceedingly high personal standards, strive
for perfection, expect to be perfect, and are highly self-critical if
they fail to meet these expectations. In contrast, other-oriented
perfectionism comprises internally motivated beliefs that it is
important for others to strive for perfection and be perfect.
Other-oriented perfectionists expect others to be perfect, and are
highly critical of others who fail to meet these expectations.
Finally, socially prescribed perfectionism comprises externally
motivated beliefs that striving for perfection and being perfect
are important to others. Socially prescribed perfectionists believe
that others expect them to be perfect, and that others will be high-
ly critical of them if they fail to meet their expectations (Hewitt &
Flett, 1991, 2004).
1.2. Multidimensional perfectionism and narcissism
Narcissism has been described as a ‘‘cognitive-affective preoc-
cupation with the self’’ (Westen, 1990, p. 227) associated with
the pursuit of gratification through vanity or egotistic admiration
of one’s own attributes. While narcissism research originated from
studies of psychopathology (see Raskin & Terry, 1988), narcissistic
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.02.027
0191-8869/Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author at: School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury,
Kent CT2 7NP, United Kingdom. Tel.: +44 1227 824196; fax: +44 1227 827030.
E-mail address: J.Stoeber@kent.ac.uk (J. Stoeber).
Personality and Individual Differences 80 (2015) 85–90
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Personality and Individual Differences
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/paid
tendencies are normative and widespread in the general popula-
tion. This may be especially true for aspects of ‘‘normal narcissism’’
that Raskin and Terry (1988) described as reflecting individual dif-
ferences in showing off one’s accomplishments, being preoccupied
with physical appearance, feeling superior to others, and feeling
entitled to special treatment. In fact, some authors suggest we
are living in an age of entitlement where narcissism is increasingly
common (Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008).
Narcissism is also a unique predictor of many consequential out-
comes including criminal behavior, interpersonal problems, anger,
workplace incivility, aggression, and difficulties in psychotherapy
(e.g., Pincus, Cain, & Wright, 2014), suggesting a need to better
understand this potentially destructive trait.
The relationships between multidimensional perfectionism and
narcissism were investigated from the beginning of Hewitt and
Flett’s (1991) research differentiating the three forms of perfec-
tionism. This research has gained new momentum because of
renewed interest in other-oriented perfectionism and its unique
relationships with narcissism (e.g., Sherry, Gralnick, Hewitt,
Sherry, & Flett, 2014; Stoeber, 2014a). The renewed interest in
other-oriented perfectionism is relevant because—when all three
forms of perfectionism are considered while simultaneously con-
trolling for their overlap—other-oriented perfectionism appears
to be the form of perfectionism with unique positive relationships
with narcissism. In a study investigating the relationships of self-
oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism
with narcissism measured with the Narcissistic Personality
Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), other-oriented perfectionism
emerged as the only form that showed positive unique relation-
ships (Sherry et al., 2014). The same pattern was observed in
another study (Stoeber, 2014a) measuring narcissism with the
Dirty Dozen (Jonason & Webster, 2010), a brief measure of the dark
triad of personality (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopa-
thy). Again, other-oriented perfectionism emerged as the only form
of perfectionism showing positive unique relationships with nar-
cissism. Furthermore, in a study examining how the three forms
of perfectionism were related to pathological personality traits
measured with the Personality Inventory for the DSM-5 (Krueger,
Derringer, Markon, Watson, & Skodol, 2013), other-oriented per-
fectionism showed unique positive relationships with the two
traits defining narcissistic personality disorder: grandiosity and
attention seeking (Stoeber, 2014b). Together, these findings sug-
gest that only other-oriented shows unique positive relationships
with narcissism, whereas self-oriented and socially prescribed per-
fectionism show no consistent relationships with narcissism once
their overlap with other-oriented perfectionism is taken into
account.
1.3. Narcissism: grandiosity and vulnerability
There is, however, a caveat to this suggestion. Narcissism
research differentiates between grandiose narcissism and vul-
nerable narcissism (Pincus & Roche, 2011), and the narcissism
measures used in the previous mentioned studies (Sherry et al.,
2014; Stoeber, 2014a, 2014b) captured grandiose narcissism
exclusively. Consequently, the unique positive relationship of
other-oriented perfectionism with narcissism may be restricted
to grandiose narcissism.
Grandiose narcissism, the form of narcissism considered most
prototypical of narcissism, is characterized by an inflated positive
self-image of one’s skills and authority combined with exhibition-
ism, attitudes of entitlement, and a tendency toward exploitative-
ness. Grandiose narcissism is mostly overt, making it highly visible
to others. In contrast, vulnerable narcissism is mostly covert and is
characterized by a need for other people’s recognition (e.g., valida-
tion or admiration) and a sense of self-worth that is contingent
upon this recognition. If other people’s recognition is not forthcom-
ing or is doubtful, vulnerable narcissism is related to social avoid-
ance and withdrawal (Miller et al., 2011; Pincus et al., 2009).
The differentiation of grandiose versus vulnerable narcissism is
important because these two aspects of narcissism have shown dif-
ferent, sometimes opposite, relationships with indicators of well-
being, adjustment, and psychopathology (Pincus & Roche, 2011).
In particular, grandiose narcissism shows positive correlations
with explicit self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965) indicating that grand-
iose narcissists have a high sense of self-worth. In contrast, vul-
nerable narcissism shows negative correlations with explicit self-
esteem, indicating that vulnerable narcissists have a low sense of
self-worth (e.g., Miller et al., 2011; Pincus et al., 2009).
Other-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism have also
shown opposite relations with explicit self-esteem, with other-ori-
ented perfectionism showing positive correlations and socially
prescribed perfectionism showing negative correlations (Flett,
Hewitt, Blankstein, & O’Brien, 1991; Watson, Varnell, & Morris,
1999–2000). This suggests that socially prescribed perfectionism
should be positively related to vulnerable narcissism. No study to
date has investigated the relationships between multidimensional
perfectionism and vulnerable narcissism. A study by Watson et al.
(1999–2000), however, investigated perfectionism and patho-
logical narcissism, which combines grandiose and vulnerable nar-
cissism (Pincus & Roche, 2011), using the O’Brien Multiphasic
Narcissism Inventory (OMNI; O’Brien, 1987). Two of the OMNI sub-
scales (narcissistic personality, narcissistic abused personality)
showed negative correlations with explicit self-esteem proposing
that they tapped vulnerable narcissism. Both subscales showed
significantly larger correlations with socially prescribed perfec-
tionism than other-oriented perfectionism, again suggesting that
socially prescribed perfectionism is the form of perfectionism pre-
dominantly related to vulnerable narcissism.
1.4. The present study
Watson et al.’s (1990–2000) study had a number of limitations.
First, the OMNI is not a widely used and validated measure of
pathological narcissism. Moreover, it was not designed to differen-
tiate grandiose and vulnerable narcissism (O’Brien, 1987). Second,
when testing the perfectionism–narcissism relationships, the
study controlled for individual differences in explicit self-esteem
but not for the overlap between the three forms of perfectionism
(which have shown significant positive intercorrelations; Hewitt
& Flett, 2004). Hence, it remained unclear which significant rela-
tionships between perfectionism and narcissism were unique and
which were due to the overlap between the three forms of
perfectionism.
Against this background, the aim of the present study was to
examine the unique relationships of self-oriented, other-oriented,
and socially prescribed perfectionism with grandiose and vul-
nerable narcissism using widely used and validated measures of
narcissism. We also controlled for gender differences, as men have
shown higher levels of grandiose narcissism compared to women
(Grijalva et al., in press). In line with previous research, we expect-
ed other-oriented perfectionism to show the strongest associations
with grandiose narcissism. In contrast, we expected socially
prescribed perfectionism to show the strongest associations with
vulnerable narcissism.
2. Method
2.1. Participants
A sample of 375 students (68 men, 307 women) studying at the
University of Kent was recruited via the School of Psychology’s
86 J. Stoeber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 80 (2015) 85–90
Research Participation Scheme (RPS). Mean age of students was
19.6 years (SD = 3.3). Students volunteered to participate for RPS
credits or a £50 raffle (US $78). Participants completed all mea-
sures online using the School’s Qualtrics
Ò
platform, which required
participants to respond to all questions to prevent missing values.
The study was approved by the relevant ethics committee follow-
ing the British Psychological Society’s (2009) code of ethics and
conduct.
2.2. Measures
2.2.1. Multidimensional perfectionism
The 45-item Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS;
Hewitt & Flett, 2004) was used to measure self-oriented perfec-
tionism (e.g., ‘‘I demand nothing less than perfection of myself’’),
other-oriented perfectionism (e.g., ‘‘If I ask someone to do some-
thing, I expect it to be done flawlessly’’), and socially prescribed
perfectionism (e.g., ‘‘People expect nothing less than perfection
from me’’). The MPS has demonstrated reliability and validity in
numerous studies (Hewitt & Flett, 2004). Items were presented
with the MPS’s standard instruction (‘‘Listed below are a number
of statements concerning personal characteristics and traits...’’),
and participants responded on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree)
to 7 (strongly agree).
2.2.2. Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism
To capture various facets of grandiose and vulnerable narcis-
sism, we used three scales: the Narcissistic Personality Inventory
(NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988), the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale
(HSNS; Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and the Pathological Narcissism
Inventory (PNI; Pincus et al., 2009).
The NPI is a measure of grandiose narcissism comprised of 40
forced-choice items presenting two alternatives (e.g., [A] ‘‘I try
not to be a show off’’ versus [B] ‘‘I am apt to show off if I get the
chance’’). Participants are asked to choose the alternative closest
to their own feelings and beliefs, and scores are computed by add-
ing item choices indicating narcissism (here [B]). Whereas the NPI
is the most widely used measure of narcissism, and has shown
reliability and validity in many studies (cf. Twenge et al., 2008),
the factor structure of the NPI is debated. Factor analyses of the
NPI have found from two to seven factors (Ackerman et al., 2011;
Corry, Merritt, Mrug, & Pamp, 2008). However, factor solutions that
suggest more than two subscales regularly result in subscale scores
with unsatisfactory reliability (Cronbach’s alphas < .70; see also
Pincus et al., 2009). Hence we followed Corry et al.’s (2008) two-
factor solution differentiating exhibitionism/entitlement (‘‘I am
apt to show off if I get the chance’’) and leadership/authority (‘‘I
see myself as a good leader’’), which has demonstrated satisfactory
reliability and validity (e.g., Corry et al., 2008).
The HSNS is a one-dimensional measure of vulnerable narcis-
sism comprised of 10 items capturing narcissistic hypersensitivity
(e.g., ‘‘My feelings are easily hurt by ridicule or by the slighting
remarks of others’’). The HSNS has demonstrated reliability and
validity in numerous studies (e.g., Miller et al., 2011; Pincus
et al., 2009). Participants indicated to what extent the items were
characteristic of their feelings and behavior using a response scale
from 1 (very uncharacteristic or untrue)to5(very characteristic or
true).
The PNI is a multidimensional measure of pathological narcis-
sism comprised of 52 items forming seven subscales: (a) contingent
self-esteem capturing fluctuating self-esteem and fragile self-worth
that is dependent on others’ recognition and admiration (‘‘It’s hard
to feel good about myself unless I know other people admire me’’),
(b) exploitativeness capturing a manipulative interpersonal orienta-
tion (‘‘I find it easy to manipulate people’’), (c) self-sacrificing self-
enhancement capturing the social display of altruistic behavior to
support an inflated self-image (‘‘I help others in order to prove
I’m a good person’’), (d) hiding the self capturing the avoidance of
showing others faults and needs or asking others for help (‘‘I often
hide my needs for fear that others will see me as needy and depen-
dent’’), (e) grandiose fantasy capturing compensatory fantasies of
being successful and gaining recognition and admiration (‘‘I often
fantasize about being admired and respected’’), (f) devaluing others
capturing disinterest in and hostility towards others who do not
provide needed recognition and admiration (‘‘Sometimes I avoid
people because I’m concerned they won’t acknowledge what I do
for them’’), and (g) entitlement rage capturing experiences of anger
when expectations one feels entitled to are not met (‘‘I typically get
very angry when I’m unable to get what I want from others’’).
Exploitativeness, self-sacrificing self-enhancement, and grandiose
fantasy capture narcissistic grandiosity whereas contingent self-
esteem, hiding the self, devaluing others, and entitlement rage cap-
ture narcissistic vulnerability (Wright, Lukowitsky, Pincus, &
Conroy, 2010). The PNI has shown reliability and validity in numer-
ous studies (e.g., Miller et al., 2011; Wright et al., 2010).
Participants indicated how well the items described them using a
response scale from 0 (not at all like me)to5(very much like me).
2.3. Data screening
We investigated whether any participants gave uniform
responses and excluded nine participants from the analyses who
showed zero variance in their responses to the MPS, HSNS, or
PNI items. (All participants showed variance in their responses to
the NPI items.) Next, we computed the scores for all 13 scales.
Because multivariate outliers can severely distort the results of
correlation and regression analyses, we excluded another two par-
ticipants who showed a Mahalanobis distance larger than the cri-
tical value of
v
2
(13) = 34.53, p< .001 indicating they were
multivariate outliers. With this, the final sample comprised 364
participants (67 men, 297 women). All scores displayed satisfacto-
ry reliability (Cronbach’s alphas > .70).
1
Finally, we probed the
scores for possible gender differences by computing a MANOVA with
gender as between-participants factor. Gender was significant with
F(13, 350) = 3.45, p< .001 and was therefore included in all further
analyses.
3. Results
3.1. Multidimensional perfectionism
We examined the bivariate correlations among the three forms
of perfectionism and gender. In line with previous findings (Hewitt
& Flett, 2004), the three forms showed significant positive intercor-
relations: Self-oriented perfectionism showed a correlation of
r= .38 with other-oriented perfectionism and r= .40 with socially
prescribed perfectionism whereas the latter two showed a correla-
tion of r= .25, all ps < .001. All three forms showed nonsignificant
correlations with gender (coded 1 = men, 0 = women), .10 6rs6
.02, all ns.
3.2. Multidimensional perfectionism and narcissism
We conducted an exploratory factor analysis with SPSS 21 to
examine if the 10 narcissism facets formed the expected two fac-
tors of grandiose versus vulnerable narcissism. As recommended
(Fabrigar, Wegener, MacCallum, & Strahan, 1999), we used maxi-
mum likelihood extraction and oblique rotation. Because Kaiser’s
1
Means, standard deviations, and Cronbach’s alphas of all scores are available from
the first author.
J. Stoeber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 80 (2015) 85–90 87
eigenvalue >1 rule is notorious for overextracting, we examined
the eigenvalues with parallel analysis and Velicer’s minimum aver-
age partial test using psych (Revelle, 2015). Both tests suggested
retaining two factors that had eigenvalues of 4.29 and 2.07 and
together explained 63.6% of variance. Oblimin rotation resulted
in a pattern matrix that showed exhibitionism/entitlement, leader-
ship/authority, and exploitativeness with substantial loadings on
Factor 1 and the remaining facets with substantial loadings on
Factor 2 (see Table 1). We labelled Factor 1 grandiose narcissism
because the three facets defining Factor 1 represented key aspects
of narcissistic grandiosity; we labelled Factor 2 vulnerable narcis-
sism because five of the seven facets defining Factor 2 represented
narcissistic vulnerability (contingent self-esteem, devaluing
others, entitlement rage, hypersensitivity, hiding the self) and only
two represented grandiose narcissism (self-sacrificing enhance-
ment, grandiose fantasy; cf. Wright et al., 2010).
3.2.1. Grandiose narcissism
We examined bivariate correlations between perfectionism and
the facets of grandiose narcissism (exhibitionism/entitlement,
leadership/authority, exploitativeness). As expected, only other-
oriented perfectionism showed positive correlations with the three
facets (see Table 2). Gender also showed positive correlations with
the facets. As in previous research (Grijalva et al., in press), men
showed higher levels of grandiose narcissism than women.
To examine unique relationships between the three forms of
perfectionism and grandiose narcissism, we computed multiple
regressions entering self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented
perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, and gender
simultaneously to control for the overlap between the three forms
of perfectionism and gender effects. The resulting pattern of semi-
partial correlations, however, remained consistent in that only
other-oriented perfectionism and gender showed positive semi-
partial correlations with the facets of grandiose narcissism
(Table 2).
3.2.2. Vulnerable narcissism
We examined bivariate correlations between perfectionism and
the facets of vulnerable narcissism (see Table 2). As expected,
socially prescribed perfectionism showed positive correlations
with all seven facets (contingent self-esteem, devaluing others,
entitlement rage, hypersensitivity, self-sacrificing self-enhance-
ment, hiding the self, grandiose fantasy). However, self-oriented
perfectionism also showed positive correlations with all seven
facets, and other-oriented perfectionism showed positive correla-
tions with five of the seven facets.
Consequently, we examined unique relationships between the
three forms of perfectionism and vulnerable narcissism using the
same multiple regression approach as before. This time, however,
the resulting pattern of semipartial correlations differed from the
bivariate correlations (see Table 2). Only socially prescribed perfec-
tionism continued to show positive semipartial correlations with
all seven facets after controlling for the overlap with the other
forms of perfectionism. In contrast, self-oriented perfectionism
showed positive semipartial correlations with only three facets
(self-sacrificing self-enhancement, hiding the self, grandiose fanta-
sy) as did other-oriented perfectionism (devaluing others, entitle-
ment rage, grandiose fantasy). Consistent with the bivariate
correlations, gender only showed a positive semipartial correlation
with grandiose fantasy, indicating that men showed higher levels
of grandiose fantasy than women.
4. Discussion
4.1. The present findings
Despite longstanding (e.g., Hewitt & Flett, 1991) and recently
reinvigorated (e.g., Sherry et al., 2014) interest in narcissistic forms
of perfectionism, our understanding of the perfectionism–
narcissism relationship is lopsided: We have extensive research
Table 1
Exploratory factor analysis of narcissism facets: two-factor solution.
Narcissism facets Factor 1 Factor 2
Grandiose narcissism
Exhibitionism/entitlement .99 .02
Leadership/authority .92 .10
Exploitativeness .43 .11
Vulnerable narcissism
Contingent self-esteem .09 .84
Devaluing others .11 .73
Entitlement rage .27 .70
Hypersensitivity .06 .70
Self-sacrificing self-enhancement .09 .67
Hiding the self .16 .64
Grandiose fantasy .22 .54
Note. N = 364. Pattern matrix. Factor extraction method = maximum likelihood;
rotation method = oblimin. Loadings > .30 are boldfaced. r(Factor 1, Factor 2) = .26,
p< .001.
Table 2
Self-oriented (SOP), other-oriented (OOP), and socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP): bivariate and semipartial correlations with grandiose and vulnerable narcissism controlling
for gender.
Bivariate correlations Semipartial correlations
Narcissism facets SOP OOP SPP Gender SOP OOP SPP Gender
Grandiose narcissism
Exhibitionism/entitlement .04 .20
***
.04 .18
***
.02 .20
***
.00 .18
***
Leadership/authority .01 .13
*
.02 .17
**
.01 .14
**
.04 .17
**
Exploitativeness .02 .13
*
.02 .20
***
.01 .13
*
.00 .20
***
Vulnerable narcissism
Contingent self-esteem .17
**
.04 .41
***
.03 .03 .07 .38
***
.01
Devaluing others .22
***
.28
***
.43
***
.04 .00 .17
***
.36
***
.07
Entitlement rage .16
**
.33
***
.32
***
.06 .04 .26
***
.25
***
.08
Hypersensitivity .18
***
.12
*
.37
***
.07 .03 .02 .33
***
.09
Self-sacrificing self-enhancement .19
***
.09 .25
***
.02 .10
*
.01 .19
***
.04
Hiding the self .31
***
.16
**
.47
***
.01 .13
**
.00 .37
***
.05
Grandiose fantasy .32
***
.24
***
.36
***
.19
***
.17
***
.10
*
.24
***
.22
***
Note. N = 364. Semipartial correlations from multiple regressions simultaneously entering SOP, OOP, SPP, and gender (coded 1 = male, 0 = female).
*
p< .05.
**
p< .01.
***
p< .001.
88 J. Stoeber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 80 (2015) 85–90
on perfectionism and grandiose narcissism, but no research on per-
fectionism and vulnerable narcissism. Our study begins to fill this
important gap in knowledge. Specifically, the aim of our study
was to test the relationships of self-oriented, other-oriented, and
socially prescribed perfectionism with facets of grandiose and vul-
nerable narcissism using correlation and regression analyses while
controlling for gender. As expected, other-oriented perfectionism
was the only form of perfectionism showing unique positive rela-
tionships with key facets of narcissistic grandiosity (exhibition-
ism/entitlement, leadership/authority, exploitativeness). This
result corroborates past findings in which, of the three forms of
perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism was the only form
showing unique positive relationships with grandiose narcissism
(Sherry et al., 2014; Stoeber, 2014a, 2014b). As expected, socially
prescribed perfectionism showed unique positive relationships
with all facets of narcissistic vulnerability (contingent self-esteem,
devaluing others, entitlement rage, hypersensitivity, hiding the
self) suggesting that, of the three forms of perfectionism, socially
prescribed perfectionism is the form most strongly associated with
vulnerable narcissism.
Furthermore, there were noteworthy differences between self-
and other-oriented perfectionism in the pattern of unique relation-
ships with facets of pathological narcissism (Pincus et al., 2009).
Self-oriented perfectionism showed positive relationships with
two facets in which the self plays a prominent role (self-sacrificing
self-enhancement, hiding the self). These facets suggest that self-
depreciation, rather than self-aggrandizement is characteristic of
self-oriented perfectionism. This finding accords with a wider lit-
erature suggesting that self-oriented perfectionism may be associ-
ated with silencing, concealing, or sacrificing the self (Hewitt et al.,
2003). Conversely, other-other-oriented perfectionism showed
unique positive relationships with three facets of pathological nar-
cissism in which others play a prominent role. However, all three
facets had a strong antisocial component (exploitativeness, devalu-
ing others, and entitlement rage) corroborating previous findings
that other-oriented perfectionism, but not self-oriented perfection-
ism, has an antisocial component (Stoeber, 2014a, 2014b). Indeed,
other-oriented perfectionists tend to be domineering, arrogant,
mistrustful, and distant in social relationships while remaining
blissfully unaware of (or unconcerned with) the emotional turbu-
lence they create for others (Hill, Zrull, & Turlington, 1997). This
combination makes other-oriented perfectionism particularly
important for interpersonal functioning.
Other findings, however, were not as expected. In our explorato-
ry factor analysis, two facets of pathological narcissism that Wright
et al. (2010) found to capture narcissistic grandiosity—self-
sacrificing self-enhancement and grandiose fantasy—loaded on
the same factor as the facets capturing narcissistic vulnerability
(cf. Miller et al., 2011) suggesting a kind of vulnerable grandiosity.
Second, all three forms of perfectionism—self-oriented, other-
oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism—showed unique
positive relationships with grandiose fantasy, suggesting all three
are associated with compensatory fantasies of being successful
and gaining recognition and admiration. Lee, Roberts-Collins,
Coughtrey, Phillips, and Shafran (2011) found that perfectionists
are prone to intrusive mental images (e.g., intrusive images of prob-
lems at work or at school), and our study extends this work by sug-
gesting grandiose mental images are important to perfectionists.
For some, perfection may be easier to imagine than to obtain.
Finally, other-oriented perfectionism showed unique positive
relationships with two facets of pathological narcissism (entitle-
ment rage, devaluing others) that represent narcissistic
vulnerability rather than narcissistic grandiosity. Although both
facets contain aspects linked to characteristics of other-oriented
perfectionism, namely an enhanced sense of self-entitlement and
disregard for others (Stoeber, 2014a), it is noteworthy that the
unique relationships involving other-oriented perfectionism were
not restricted to narcissistic grandiosity.
4.2. Limitations and future studies
Our study was the first to test the relationships of multidimen-
sional perfectionism with grandiose and vulnerable narcissism,
and some specific relationships self- and other-oriented perfec-
tionism showed with facets of vulnerable narcissism were not pre-
dicted. Moreover, 82% of our sample were women. Future studies
should replicate our findings and use samples with a larger per-
centage of men before firm conclusions are drawn. This also
applies to the two-factor structure we found for the 10 facets of
narcissism whose construct validity remains questionable until
replicated. Second, our study examined multidimensional perfec-
tionism following Hewitt and Flett’s (1991) model. Although this
is one of the most widely-used models of perfectionism, there
are other prominent models (Frost et al., 1990; Hill et al., 2004;
Slaney, Rice, Mobley, Trippi, & Ashby, 2001). Future studies may
profit from extending the present research to these other models,
although Hill et al.’s (2004) model is the only other model consid-
ering other-oriented perfectionism.
5. Conclusion
Our study represents the first study of multidimensional perfec-
tionism and narcissism differentiating grandiose and vulnerable
narcissism, and makes a significant contribution to our under-
standing of the perfectionism–narcissism relationships. In par-
ticular, our results indicate that self-oriented, other-oriented, and
socially prescribed perfectionism differ with respect to grandiose
and vulnerable narcissism. Whereas all three forms of perfection-
ism showed unique positive relationships with individual aspects
of narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability, other-oriented perfec-
tionism was predominantly related to grandiose narcissism and
socially prescribed perfectionism was predominantly related to
vulnerable narcissism.
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