An aetiological model of perfectionism
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Perfectionism has been identified as an important factor in the aetiology, course and maintenance of numerous psychological difficulties. The research to date has focused predominantly on examining the descriptive and maintaining factors of perfectionism, resulting in a paucity of research on the aetiology of the construct. A small amount of literature has identified parenting and personality factors as influential in the development of perfectionism, however these factors have been examined in isolation rather than in a multifactorial model. In prominent cognitive theories, parenting and personality factors are hypothesised to result in the development of particular cognitive schema, however this has not been tested in the construct of perfectionism. The aim of this study was to test a multifactorial, aetiological model of perfectionism that included parenting factors, personality factors and cognitive schema.In Study One, an aetiological model was tested that assumed that parenting variables (Parental Bonding comprised of low Parental Care and high Parental Control, as well as high Parental Expectations and Criticism) were intercorrelated with the personality factor of high Neuroticism. These parenting and personality factors were hypothesised to lead to the development of particular cognitive schema (Emotional Deprivation, Abandonment, Mistrust/Abuse, Defectiveness and Social Isolation) that contribute to the development of perfectionism. The data was collected using a range of measures with a sample of 311 clients currently seeking psychological/psychiatric treatment predominantly in private practice. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the congruence between the data and the proposed aetiological model. Evidence was found in support of the model indicating a direct relationship between high Parental Expectations and Criticism and perfectionism. There was also an indirect relationship between Parental Bonding and perfectionism that was mediated by core schemas. Finally, it was found that Neuroticism had both an indirect relationship, which was mediated by core schemas, and a direct relationship with perfectionism. However, two of the relationships predicted in the model where not supported by the findings, in that there were no significant direct relationships between maternal and paternal Parental Bonding and perfectionism.Study Two presented three explanatory case studies on the development of perfectionism. Client‟s perceptions of the salient factors in the development of their perfectionism were largely consistent with the aetiological model. However, clients emphasised the importance of parental modeling in the development of their perfectionism, rather than high Parental Expectations and Criticism, as would have been expected from the findings supporting the aetiological model in Study One. It is suggested that there might be two different cognitive pathways between parenting factors and perfectionism.It is concluded that models of perfectionism need to take aetiological and maintenance mechanisms into consideration. Moreover, aetiological factors need to be included in psychological assessment, case formulation and treatment. Clinical implications are outlined to extend existing psychological interventions to include aetiological factors of perfectionism to assist clients at various stages of psychological therapy.
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