Dimensions of perfectionism and life stress: predicting symptoms of psychopathology
Lee, Lisa, 1977-
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Research has consistently shown an association between the personality trait of perfectionism and a variety of emotional, psychological, and interpersonal difficulties. Using a longitudinal design, the present investigation aimed to examine the validity of a diathesis-stress model linking perfectionism to specific psychopathological symptoms in a large sample of university students. The specific stress processes of stress enhancement and stress generation were examined as potential mechanisms linking perfectionism with emotional maladjustment (see Hewitt & Flett, 2002). In addition, two different frameworks for conceptualizing perfectionism were tested: (1) a multidimensional framework by Hewitt and Flett (1991) which posits that perfectionistic tendencies and behaviours are influenced both by intrapersonal and interpersonal factors, and (2) a adaptive-maladaptive perfectionism typology (Frost et al., 1993) which posits the existence of both a positive and a negative form of perfectionism. Results of this investigation indicated that particular dimensions of perfectionism were directly predictive of stress enhancement. In addition, particular dimensions of perfectionism were also predictive of stress generation, albeit indirectly via the experience of general negative affect. Finally, perfectionism was indeed predictive of increases in emotional maladjustment over time. More specifically, particular perfectionism dimensions were directly predictive of psychopathological symptoms, while other dimensions were only predictive of symptoms via their interactions with relevant measures of life stress (i.e., via a diathesis-stress interaction). The results of the present investigation do not support the adaptive-maladaptive perfectionism typology in that the measure of adaptive perfectionism used was predictive of both stress and psychopathological symptoms. The results of this study are more consistent with the perfectionism framework highlighting intrapersonal-interpersonal dimensions. Overall, the results of this study suggest that a diathesis-stress model provides a fruitful framework from which to investigate perfectionism and its relation to psychopathology.