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Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time: A Meta-Analysis of Birth Cohort Differences From 1989 to 2016

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From the 1980’s onwards, neoliberal governance in the US, Canada, and the UK has emphasized competitive individualism and people have seemingly responded, in kind, by agitating to perfect themselves and their lifestyles. In this study, we examine whether cultural changes have coincided with an increase in multidimensional perfectionism in college students over the last 27 years. Our analyses are based on 164 samples and 41,641 American, Canadian, and British college students, who completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Hewitt & Flett, 1991) between 1989 and 2016 (70.92% female, Mage = 20.66). Cross-temporal meta-analysis revealed that levels of self-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism have linearly increased. These trends remained when controlling for gender and between-country differences in perfectionism scores. Overall, in order of magnitude of the observed increase, our findings indicate that recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves.
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... They felt under pressure which caused anxiety to achieve and anxiety to be perfect. This is consistent with evidence showing neoliberalism emphasises competitive individualism encouraging a culture of perfectionism pushing women toward unrealistic standards and harsh self-criticism (Curran and Hill, 2019). Such a competitive sense of perfectionism was voiced by our participants as they demonstrated the stress of being career focused. ...
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Purpose The paper aims to explore the anxiety of university students. The authors note that the rhetoric of the snowflake is frequently invoked in lay discourse to characterise a generation of young people as overly sensitive. This misleading conceptualisation is potentially stigmatising. Design/methodology/approach Interviews were conducted with tweleve young women (18–25 years) about anxiety during their transition through university and into adulthood. Findings The authors identified three themes: (1) students in a modern world, (2) gendered demands and (3) anxiety of adulting. Analysis demonstrated numerous, transecting and discourse-informed anxieties about modern life. Practical implications University professionals may benefit from understanding the gendered dimensions of anxiety associated with transitions to adulthood, including the increased pressures to succeed and achieve. Originality/value The arguably pejorative label of “snowflake” could negatively impact the social progress made in recognising the importance of taking care of mental health and help-seeking. This is especially concerning for females, as they have higher prevalence of anxiety conditions than males.
... There have been several education reforms in Denmark during the last decade, increasing the pressure on young people, e.g., (1) stricter entry requirements for higher education programs, (2) a 'speed start bonus': if students apply for a higher education program within two years of completing upper secondary education, their grade point average (entrance qualification for higher education programs) will be multiplied by a factor of 1.08, and (3) an A-level bonus: if students take an extra A-level subject during upper secondary education, their grade point average will be multiplied by a factor of 1.03. Furthermore, today's society is characterized by a culture that values competition, an extreme focus on performance, and a constant search for perfection in every part of life [63][64][65]. These themes were also present when we interviewed students and teachers as a part of the needs assessment and process evaluation [66,67]. ...
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Stress is a widespread phenomenon and young people especially are experiencing high levels of stress. School-related factors are the most frequently self-reported stressors among adolescents, but few interventions have targeted the school environment. This study evaluated the effectiveness of the Healthy High School (HHS) intervention on stress at a 9-month follow-up. The study included 5201 first-year high school students (~16 years) in Denmark. Participating schools were randomized into the HHS intervention (N = 15) or control group (N = 15). Baseline measurements were conducted in August 2016 and the follow-up was conducted in May 2017. The intervention was designed to promote well-being (primary outcome) by focusing on physical activity, meals, sleep, sense of security, and stress (secondary outcomes). The intervention comprised: structural initiatives at the school level; a teaching material; peer-led innovation workshops; and a smartphone app. The 10-item Perceived Stress Scale was used to measure stress. Intervention effects on perceived stress were estimated using an intention-to-treat approach with multiple imputations of missing data and multilevel general linear regression modelling. A total of 4577 students answered the baseline questionnaire. No statistically significant difference was found in stress between students at intervention and control schools at the follow-up (mean score: 16.7 versus 16.7, adjusted b = 0.42, 95%CI: −0.16;1.00). The HHS Study is one of the first large randomized controlled trials targeting school environmental stressors. Potential implementation failures and the failures of the program theory are discussed.
... The implied physical threats, and psychological, economic, social implications, as well as the unpredictable nature of most of these disasters has significantly affected the entire populations' mental health and well-being (Bao, Sun, Meng, Shi, & Lu, 2020;Limcaoco, Mateos, Fernandez, & Roncero, 2020;Salari, Khazaie, Hosseinian-Far, Khaledi, & Eskandari, 2020). Additionally, research has also documented that the adults' life in the late, or liquid modernity (Bauman, 2007) is characterized by more and more complex sources of stress, as: increasing economic uncertainty, changes in basic value-systems (moral values, guidelines for what means a well-lived life), changes in work-style (advantages and disadvantages of telework, the psychological costs of temporary employments), frequent relocations, weakening of real social-bonds, pressure for excellence, constant competition, etc. (Banyard, Edwards, & Kendall-Tackett, 2009;Curran & Hill, 2017;Moscone, Tosetti, & Vittadini, 2016;Tavares, 2017;Twenge & Kasser, 2013;Verhaeghe, 2014;Virtanen, Kivimaki, Joensuu, Virtanen, Elovainio, & Vahtera, 2005). The effect of these changes is reflected by the dramatic increase of mental health problems world-wide (anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.) (Erzen & Çikrikçi, 2018;WHO, 2017). ...
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"The Coronavirus-induced pandemic has had a significant impact on the physical and psychological functioning of the entire world’s population. Research has indicated that besides the physical threat to health itself, the implications of constant uncertainty, separation from and/or loss of loved ones, loss of freedom to travel, shortage of food and financial resources, disruptions of usual life-routines, changing work and learning habits, further aggravate the effect of initial stressors, leading to increased levels of depressive symptoms, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, lowered levels of well-being, and confusion. Unfortunately, just as the two-years long pandemic ended, the Ukrainian war started, and the Romanian population, since our country borders Ukraine, has experienced a novel type of stress, that of the possibility of being attacked, affected economically. Almost simultaneously, the online education has returned to classical form of teaching, amidst semester, being another stress factor for students. Our results indicated that the two-year long pandemic was considered as having the greatest impact by almost two-thirds of the students. Furthermore, the lack of self-efficacy component of perceived stress was a constant and strong predictor of all components of well-being (subjective and psychological), and perceived helplessness for subjective well-being. Regarding emotion regulation strategies refocus on planning, positive reevaluation, self- and other blame, withdrawal and actively approaching the source of stress proved to be the most important predictors. The results of our investigation may be beneficial for the tailoring of future prevention and intervention programs that would target the enhancement of psychological adaptation of students. Keywords: stress, depressive symptoms, uncertainty, emotion regulation strategies, subjective and psychological well-being, post COVID-19. "
... The association between orthorexia nervosa and perfectionism has been rarely studied. Adherence to perfect rules in life is a predictor of mental illness and eating disorders [29]. Higher perfectionism was associated with more orthorexia nervosa in two studies [30][31][32]. ...
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Background: The literature highly concentrates on disorders related to body image among women but only minimally when it comes to the male population; hence, in order to provide general practitioners, and primary care physicians in general, and psychiatrists in particular, with additional information concerning muscle dysmorphia among male university students in Lebanon, this study seemed essential, and was therefore conducted to (1) identify the prevalence of MDD, and (2) evaluate the indirect effect of eating attitudes in general and orthorexia nervosa in particular, in the association between perfectionism and muscle dysmorphic disorder (MDD) among a sample of male university students. Methods: In this cross-sectional study conducted between September 2021 and May 2022, 396 male university students from multiple universities in Lebanon filled the online Arabic questionnaire. Results: The results showed that 26 (6.6%) of the participants had MDD. Orthorexia nervosa and eating attitudes mediated the association between perfectionism and MDD; higher perfectionism was significantly associated with higher ON and more inappropriate eating; higher ON and more inappropriate eating were significantly associated with higher MDD, whereas perfectionism had a significant total direct effect on MDD. The high prevalence of MDD among male university students in Lebanon implies further investigation on the national level in the country. Conclusion: Awareness campaigns among the university students could be adopted at the national level to increase the level of knowledge on the concepts of obsessive self-destructive perfectionism, orthorexia nervosa and muscle dysmorphia.
... Perfectionism can be defined as being overly self-critical, and setting very high behavioral and personal performance norms [48]. Many university students experience prominent academic pressures and success expectations; consequently, perfectionism is found to be prevalent in this population [49,50]. Students with perfectionistic tendencies are at increased risk of mental-health issues [51], and are assumed to have decreased SE levels [52]. ...
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Background: The psychological mechanisms that underlie the relationship between self-esteem and life satisfaction remain unclear and not well-understood. We sought through the present study to test the hypothesis that perfectionism plays a significant mediating role in the association between self-esteem and satisfaction with life among Lebanese university students. Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed in a sample of 363 students (61.7% females, mean age = 22.65 ± 3.48 years). Three research instruments were used: satisfaction with life scale, Rosenberg self-esteem scale and big three perfectionism scale. Results: Higher self-esteem was significantly associated with lower self-critical perfectionism (Beta= -0.47), whereas higher self-critical perfectionism was significantly associated with lower satisfaction in life (Beta= -0.29). Finally, higher self-esteem was significantly and directly associated with higher satisfaction with life (Beta= 0.48). Conclusion: The present preliminary findings point to the role of self-critical perfectionism as a buffer between self-esteem and satisfaction with life, suggesting the roles of self-esteem and perfectionism as promising avenues for promoting satisfaction with life in adolescent students.
... A recent meta-analysis showed that the tendency toward perfectionism has increased over the past 30 years (Curran & Hill, 2019), and a study in this regard also in- dicated that very high levels of perfectionism were typical among students (14%) and people with chronic diseases (Molnar et al., 2020). ...
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Introduction: Perfectionism is acknowledged as a core vulnerability and a perpetuating factor in several psychopathologies. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effectiveness of short-term dynamic/interpersonal group therapy on perfectionism and perfectionism-related distress such as anxiety, depression, and interpersonal problems. Method: This study is a quasi-experimental study applying clinical trial method and contains pre-test, post-test, follow-up periods and control group. The study population included students and the sample consisted of 30 people with extreme perfectionism, who were assigned in two groups of 15 people, experimental and waiting list groups using randomized block design. Research instruments included TMPS, PSPS, PCI, BDI-II, BAI and IIP-32 scales. In order to analyze the collected data, mixed analysis of variance and Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance were used in SPSS software version 22. Findings: The results show that the intervention in the experimental group compared to the waiting list group caused a clinically and statistically significant decrease in the mean scores. This result is observable and evident in all levels of perfectionism and psychological distress (anxiety, depression and interpersonal problems), except for the subscale of non-display of imperfection from the PSPS scale. These results were preserved through the follow-up periods. Discussion: These results show that short-term dynamic/interpersonal group therapy is effective in treating most of the components of perfectionism, and concerning its effectiveness; it reduced psychological distress and showed that the components pertaining to perfectionism are factors of vulnerability in this regard.
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Perfectionism has been a challenge in university students' everyday lives. As perfectionism can negatively affect students' mental health, researchers have suggested ways to manage perfectionism and build students' resilience towards having a better wellbeing. One way is to practice self-compassion. This study utilized mediation analyses to investigate if self-compassion mediates the relationship between the trait dimensions of perfectionism and psychological resilience among Filipino university students. A sample of 317 undergraduate students from the University of the Philippines Diliman participated and answered scales that measure the variables of interest. Results indicate that when covariates were excluded, self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) and socially prescribed perfectionism influenced psychological resilience indirectly via self-compassion, while SOP and other-oriented perfectionism (OOP) directly affected psychological resilience, independent of self-compassion. When covariates were included, the same findings were found, but OOP also influenced psychological resilience indirectly via self-compassion. Implications of the findings are discussed in this study.
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It has been 21 years since the publication of the cognitive behavioural model of clinical perfectionism that underpins cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for perfectionism. The notion of clinical perfectionism and CBT for perfectionism has been controversial. Despite 15 randomised controlled trials which have demonstrated the efficacy of CBT for perfectionism in reducing perfectionism and symptoms of anxiety, depression and eating disorders, strong responses to this work continue to appear in the literature. In this article, we examine the evolution and controversy surrounding clinical perfectionism, the efficacy of CBT for perfectionism, and future directions for the concept of perfectionism and its treatment. Future research should aim to provide independent evaluations of treatment efficacy, compare CBT for perfectionism to active treatments, conduct dismantling trials to examine the effective components of treatment, and examine the causal processes involved in perfectionism. We provide recommendations for future pathways to support innovation in theory, understanding, and treatment of perfectionism with a view towards improving clinical outcomes.
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Objective: Over 50 years of research implicates perfectionism in suicide. Yet the role of perfectionism in suicide needs clarification due to notable between-study inconsistencies in findings, underpowered studies, and uncertainty about whether perfectionism confers risk for suicide. We addressed this by meta-analyzing perfectionism's relationship with suicide ideation and attempts. We also tested whether self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism predicted increased suicide ideation, beyond baseline ideation. Method: Our literature search yielded 45 studies (N = 11,747) composed of undergraduates, medical students, community adults, and psychiatric patients. Results: Meta-analysis using random effects models revealed perfectionistic concerns (socially prescribed perfectionism, concern over mistakes, doubts about actions, discrepancy, perfectionistic attitudes), perfectionistic strivings (self-oriented perfectionism, personal standards), parental criticism, and parental expectations displayed small-to-moderate positive associations with suicide ideation. Socially prescribed perfectionism also predicted longitudinal increases in suicide ideation. Additionally, perfectionistic concerns, parental criticism, and parental expectations displayed small, positive associations with suicide attempts. Conclusions: Results lend credence to theoretical accounts suggesting self-generated and socially based pressures to be perfect are part of the premorbid personality of people prone to suicide ideation and attempts. Perfectionistic strivings' association with suicide ideation also draws into question the notion that such strivings are healthy, adaptive, or advisable.
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This study supports the generalizability of perfectionistic strivings and concerns across Canadian and Chinese university students (N = 1,006) and demonstrates the importance of establishing measurement invariance prior to hypothesis testing with different groups. No latent mean difference in perfectionistic concerns was observed, but Canadian individuals reported higher perfectionistic strivings.
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This online resource provides both conceptual and practical information for conducting and evaluating evidence-based outcome studies. It encompasses psychotherapy research for traditional mental health disorders (eg. depression, anxiety), as well as psychosocial-based treatments provided to medical patient populations to have impact either on the disease process itself (pain, cardiovascular risk) or to improve the quality of life of such individuals. The major emphasis is on the practical nuts-and-bolts implementation of psychosocial-based RCTs from conception to completion.
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We use novel diary surveys coupled with universities' administrative student data for the last three decades to document that increased competition for university places at elite institutions in the United Kingdom contributes to explain growing gaps in time investments between college and non-college educated parents. Competition for university places in the UK grew significantly during the 1980s and early 1990s, and gradually diminished afterwards. We find that the gap in time investments by college and non-college educated parents and their children widened up precisely during this first period, especially in terms of human capital enhancing activities.
Article
Exploring the possible reasons for heterogeneity between studies is an important aspect of conducting a meta-analysis. This paper compares a number of methods which can be used to investigate whether a particular covariate, with a value defined for each study in the meta-analysis, explains any heterogeneity. The main example is from a meta-analysis of randomized trials of serum cholesterol reduction, in which the log-odds ratio for coronary events is related to the average extent of cholesterol reduction achieved in each trial. Different forms of weighted normal errors regression and random effects logistic regression are compared. These analyses quantify the extent to which heterogeneity is explained, as well as the effect of cholesterol reduction on the risk of coronary events. In a second example, the relationship between treatment effect estimates and their precision is examined, in order to assess the evidence for publication bias. We conclude that methods which allow for an additive component of residual heterogeneity should be used. In weighted regression, a restricted maximum likelihood estimator is appropriate, although a number of other estimators are also available. Methods which use the original form of the data explicitly, for example the binomial model for observed proportions rather than assuming normality of the log-odds ratios, are now computationally feasible. Although such methods are preferable in principle, they often give similar results in practice. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Chapter
Perfectionism represents a putative vulnerability factor for psychopathology. Integrative models are needed to bring greater clarity to researchers’ and to practitioners’ understanding of when and why perfectionism is related to psychopathology. The social disconnection model (SDM; Hewitt et al., Cognition and suicide: Theory, research, and therapy, pp. 215–235, 2006) is an integrative theoretical model clarifying why perfectionism generates psychopathology through negative social behaviors, cognitions, and outcomes. In the present chapter, we articulate an expanded SDM that addresses limitations of the original formulation of this model. The expanded SDM includes a role for perfectionistic strivings and other-oriented perfectionism, personality-dependent interpersonal problems, moderated mediation, and multifinality. We also present two case studies illustrating how the expanded SDM is applicable to two well-known perfectionists: Sylvia Plath and Steve Jobs. Building on Hewitt et al. (2006), the expanded SDM brings greater clarity to our understanding of interpersonally distressed perfectionists and their problems.
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Chapter 18 explores methods of assessing the effect size of outcome research. It provides a sampling of ES indices in three general classes: the difference family (illustrated here by Cohen’s d, Hedges’s g, and the risk difference); the correlation family (including by the point-biserial r, and the phi coefficient); and the ratio family (illustrated by the odds ratio and relative risk).
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Addresses 3 major questions: The first question focused on how the results of a prinicipal-components analysis that included the Almost Perfect Scale-Revised (APS-R) would compare with the results of Frost et al, (1993) and Stanley et al, (1995); the 2nd question focused on the relationships between the perfectionism scales themselves; and the 3rd question focused on the factors' relationships with other psychological constructs. More specifically, the study examined the ability of factors derived form the 3 current measures of perfectionism to predict 3 variables that measure emotional functioning: locus of control, anxiety, and psychopathology. 196 undergraduates (aged 18-50 yrs) participated in the study. A principal-components analysis of the APS-R and 2 other measures of perfectionism yielded 3 higher order factors that were used to predict locus of control, anxiety, and psychological distress. The Maladaptive factor accounted for the most variance. These results are discussed along with suggestions for future research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)