Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Perfectionism, or the setting of unattainably high standards along with concerns over negative performance evaluation, is associated with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicidality in adults (Affrunti & Woodruff-Borden, 2014). Despite these outcomes in adults, perfectionism research in children is underdeveloped. One of the few measures of childhood perfectionism, the Child and Adolescent Perfectionism Scale (CAPS), assesses two dimensions of perfectionism in children: self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) and socially-prescribed perfectionism (SPP). Although some evidence suggests SPP is associated with anxiety and depression in children, previous research findings are mixed with respect to SOP’s relationship to psychopathology. Recent evidence suggests that the SOP subscale of the CAPS may be assessing two aspects of self-oriented perfectionism, goal setting (SOP-striving) and self-criticism (SOP-critical; O’Connor, Dixon, & Rasmussen, 2009). This study aimed to clarify the relationship of SOP-critical, SOP-striving, and SPP with internalizing psychopathology in children.
Participants were a community sample of 115 children ranging in age from 8 to 12. 53.5% were female. Data collection included the CAPS and the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS), which has the following subscales: social phobia (SP), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD). Correlation and multiple regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the relationship of these dimensions of perfectionism and psychopathology in school-aged children. Findings indicated that there was a strong, positive correlation between SOP-critical with GAD (.297**) and SP(.483**), and a moderate, positive correlation with PD (.205*). SOP-striving was only significantly correlated with SP (.310**). Surprisingly, SPP was only significantly correlated to SP (.280**) but not to other anxiety or depression subscales. All perfectionism dimensions were most strongly correlated to SP. Regression analyses were then conducted to examine the relationship between the perfectionism dimensions and SP. After all perfectionism dimensions were accounted for, SOP-critical was found to be the only significant independent predictor of SP (R-square = 23.4%).
Our findings suggest that SOP-critical is the component of perfectionism that is most associated with psychopathology in children. Interestingly, being self-critical rather than concerned about other’s expectations may be most influential in the development of internalizing psychopathology. Findings suggest that clinicians assess for and target perfectionistic self-critical thoughts when treating anxious and depressive symptomatology in children. These perfectionistic thoughts and beliefs may be especially important for children experiencing social anxiety. In sum, these findings extend the field’s understanding of the role of perfectionism from adults to children and provide evidence for perfectionism as a meaningful treatment target when addressing internalizing psychopathology among youth.