Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Perfectionism is defined as setting unrealistic expectations in goal attainment (Flett et al., 2011) and is associated with anxiety disorders (Affrunti & Woodruff-Borden, 2015). Child perfectionism has been related to parent perfectionism, though the exact factors influencing the development of perfectionism in young children remains understudied (Cook & Kearney 2009). Parenting behaviors associated with anxiety development in children (e.g., overprotection, overcontrol) may serve as a context that exacerbates risk for anxiety development and perfectionism in children, with risk measured as temperamental predisposition towards anxiety (i.e., inhibited temperament; Affrunti & Woodruff-Borden, 2015). The aim of the current study is to longitudinally examine the emergence of perfectionistic tendencies during an impossible task by accounting for both child (inhibited temperament) and parent (overprotection, perfectionism) risk factors for the development of anxiety.
Mother-child dyads participated in standardized novelty episodes at ages 2 and 3 to elicit individual differences in the child’s response to novelty to assess inhibited temperament (i.e., distress, shyness). Parents also completed annual questionnaires about their parenting behaviors (Child Rearing Practices Report, Block 1965). At age 5, the child’s emotions (i.e., sadness, anger) and behaviors (i.e., resigning, protesting) in response to an impossible task were coded using standardized procedures (Goldsmith et al., 1999) and parents reported on their personal perfectionistic tendencies (Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale [MPS], Frost et al., 1990). Data collection for the age 5 visit is ongoing (current n = 21), with over 50 children from the existing sample eligible to participate in the summer of 2017.
Maternal report of high personal standards on the MPS was associated with having a child who was less likely to resign during the task (r = -.48, p = .042). Preliminary analyses revealed that toddler displays of shyness during the novelty episodes interacted with maternal report of protection and is associated with performance on the impossible task, while controlling for maternal report of perfectionism (b=-0.27, t = -30.92, p=.021). Specifically, children who demonstrated more shyness were less likely to resign on an impossible task, only if their mothers reported greater protective parenting behaviors (b=-0.67, t = -32.68, p = .020). Future moderation analyses will be conducted with a larger sample to examine the emergence of perfectionistic tendencies in children at temperamental risk for anxiety in the context of the parenting they receive. Such models will longitudinally point to parenting behaviors to target to prevent the early emergence of perfectionism and reduce anxiety in children.
Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student
Miami University of Ohio
Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania