Perfectionistic Automatic Thoughts and Psychological Distress in Adolescents: An Analysis of the Perfectionism Cognitions Inventory

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Abstract

The present paper examines a measure of perfectionistic automatic thoughts in terms of its psychometric properties and association with depression in adolescents. The Perfectionism Cognitions Inventory (PCI) was administered to two samples of adolescents. The first sample of adolescents (N = 250) also completed measures of trait perfectionism and depression. The second sample of adolescents (N = 105) completed these same measures as well as measures of negative automatic thoughts, positive automatic thoughts, self-criticism, and dependency. Psychometric analyses established that the PCI consists of one large factor with a high level of internal consistency. As expected, the PCI in adolescents was correlated significantly with trait measures of perfectionism, self-criticism, dependency, as well as general measures of automatic thoughts. Most importantly, a series of hierarchical regressions established that the PCI accounted for a significant degree of unique variance in depression, over and above the variance attributable to trait personality measures and negative automatic thoughts in general. Overall, the findings suggest perfectionistic automatic thoughts can be assessed in a reliable and valid manner in adolescents and that the experience of frequent, perfectionistic thoughts contributes uniquely to increased levels of psychological distress.

An earlier version of this paper was presented on May 25th, 2007 at the 19th annual convention of the Association For Psychological Science, Washington, DC.