Literature reviewPerfectionismThebackground of the ConstructThe psychological construct of perfectionism has been addressed in psychological theories of personality and psychopathology since long time ago.
The construct was characterized by exacting standards, meticulous living, and unfulfilled expectations (Horney,1950) and as irrational and dysfunctional, highlighted by the catastrophic nature of failing to meet unrealistic standards(Ellis, 1962), and theall-or-nothing attitude in whichfalling short of expectations is interpreted as a failure (Beck, 1976).Perfectionists are preoccupied with fear of failure anddisapproval, and if they experience failure and disappointment, becomedysfunctionally depressed (Hollender, 1965).They are strive to meet very high standards in everything they do, and pursueunrealistically high goals across any domains, be it in the workplace, insport, cooking, etc (Hewitt & Flett, 1991). There are two forms of perfectionism: adaptive andmaladaptive. The idea of adaptive and maladaptiveforms of perfectionism emerged asthe striving for perfection and superiority was portrayedas a basic human drive necessary foradaptation, but this strivingfor perfection could also take on pathological properties if the perfection of the self took precedence over social interest (Adler, 1956). This distinction is clarified by the source of themotivation to perform; a maladaptive fear of failure compared to an adaptive desire for improvement (Hamachek, 1978). According to Burns (1980) adaptive is the healthypursuit of excellence, qualitywork, and true accomplishment and onthe other hand maladaptive is the compulsive striving and self-defeating drive to meet impossible expectations.The Dual Process Model of Perfectionism made a distinctionbetween the pursuit of success,excellence, approval, and satisfaction; and the avoidance of failure,mediocrity, disapproval, and dissatisfaction (Slade& Owens, 1998).
Based on Frost & DiBartolo(2002) perfectionism has been identified as one of the six domains ofobsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD), and both clinical and nonclinicalpopulations have demonstrated significantly higher levels of perfectionism(Frost & Steketee, 1997). Higher levels of depression have been found to beassociated with higher levels of self-oriented and socially prescribedperfectionism from the Hewitt and Flett Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale(Hewitt & Flett, 1991). Theoretical DebateThe Frost and colleagues conceptualization focused onthe intrapersonal dimensions of perfectionism while the Hewitt and Flett focused on the interpersonal dimensions (Parker& Adkins, 1995).Based on the multidimensional approachof the Frost and colleagues (1990) theory some important dimensions are identified: (a) excessively high standards;(b) the level of concernover mistakes; (c) a sense ofdoubt about the quality of one’s performance; (d) concern overparent’s expectations and evaluations; and (e) anoveremphasis on precision, order, and organization. The Hewitt and Flett conceptualization addedinterpersonal dimensions to previous unidimensional self-directed approach.
Theconceptualization is made up of three dimensions: (a) self-orientedperfectionism, (b) other-oriented perfectionism, and (c) socially prescribed perfectionism, each of which ischaracterized not by differences in behaviors or cognitions but in the objectof the perfectionism. Self-oriented perfectionism describes the exactingstandards and excessive critical evaluation of one’s performance.Other-oriented perfectionism describes the same high standards and criticismdirected at others. Socially prescribed perfectionism describes the perceptionsthat significant others have unrealistic standards for them, are overlycritical, and pressure them to be perfect.(Hewitt & Flett, 1991)There is an ongoingdebate between the dimensional approach of Hewittand Flett (Flett & Hewitt, 2006) and the group(i.
e., positive and negative) approaches (Slade& Owens, 1998). Flett and Hewitt (2006) have questioned the existence of positive perfectionism and stated their beliefthat the term, “perfectionist,”should be used only for individuals who rigidly hold to theirstandards even though the situationdoes not call for perfection,and who continue to setunreasonably high standard in several life domains.There is a new conceptual model that integrates theseapproaches. From the dimensional approaches a distinction has emerged betweenperfectionistic strivings (e.
g., striving for excellence) andperfectionistic concerns (e.g.
,worry about making a mistake),whereas the group approach divides positive and negative perfectionists. In this model,perfectionists and non-perfectionists can be identified by the presence of anyperfectionistic strivings. The differentiation between positive and negative perfectionists is made usingthe level of perfectionistic concerns. Perfectionistic concerns arecharacterized by rigid and inflexible concern over mistakes, doubts aboutactions, evaluation of the discrepancy between achievement and standards,self-criticism, and a fear of failure.
Using this model, adaptiveperfectionists would be high in perfectionistic strivings and low inperfectionistic concerns while maladaptive or pathological perfectionists wouldbe high in perfectionistic strivings and concerns (Stoeber & Otto, 2006).Concerning the issue of adaptive perfectionism,in 1996, the Almost Perfect Scale (APS) was developed by Slaney and hiscolleagues. The intent was to approach the subject with an unbiased perspectiveand qualitative methodology to instruct the development of the theory (Slaney& Ashby, 1996).
It identifies three aspects of perfectionism: (a) high standards, (b) order, and (c) discrepancy. The “highstandards” and “order”dimensions correspond to