Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 895–908 | Cite as

Longitudinal Links Between Perfectionism and Depression in Children

  • Marielle Asseraf
  • Tracy VaillancourtEmail author


The temporal relation between two types of perfectionism - self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) and socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) - and depressive symptoms was examined in a sample of 653 children (286 girls, 367 boys) across Grades 6 (depressive symptoms only), 7, and 8. A vulnerability model, in which perfectionism affects depressive symptoms, was compared to a scar model, in which depressive symptoms affects perfectionism, and to a reciprocal-causality model, in which both constructs concurrently affect each other across time. Cross-lagged paths analyses using structural equation modeling supported a scar model where increases in depressive symptoms lead to increases in SPP, but not SOP. The findings applied to both boys and girls. Results suggest that in childhood, depressive symptoms increase the perception that others are expecting excessively high standards of oneself and the need to satisfy this perception.


Depression Perfectionism Longitudinal Children 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest


  1. Acock, A. C. (2005). Working with missing values. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1012–1028. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2005.00191.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akaike, H. (1974). A new look at the statistical model identification. IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 19, 716–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akaike, H. (1987). Factor analysis and AIC. Psychometrika, 52, 317–332. doi: 10.1007/ BF02294359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arbuckle, J. L. (2011). Amos 20 user’s guide. Meadville: Amos Development Corporation.Google Scholar
  5. Angold, A., Costello, E. J., Erkanli, A., & Worthman, C. M. (1999). Pubertal changes in hormone levels and depression in girls. Psychological Medicine, 29, 1043–1053. doi: 10.1017/S0033291799008946.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Angold, A., & Worthman, C. W. (1993). Puberty onset of gender differences in rates of depression: A developmental, epidemiologic and neuroendocrine perspective. Journal of Affective Disorders, 29, 145–158. doi: 10.1016/0165-0327%2893%2990029-J.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Oxford: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy for depression. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Berndt, T. J. (1979). Developmental changes in conformity to peers and parents. Developmental Psychology, 15, 606–616.Google Scholar
  10. Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Byrne, B. N. (2001). Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, applications, and programming. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.Google Scholar
  12. Castro, J., Gila, A., Gual, P., Lahortiga, F., Saura, B., & Toro, J. (2004). Perfectionism dimensions in children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Journal of Adolescent Health, 35, 392–398. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2003.11.094.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chang, E. C., & Rand, K. L. (2000). Perfectionism as a predictor of subsequent adjustment: Evidence for a specific diathesis–stress mechanism among college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 129–137. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.47.1.129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cheung, G., & Rensvold, R. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indices for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 233–255. doi: 10.1207/S15328007SEM09 02_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Cox, B. J., & Enns, M. W. (2003). Relative stability of dimensions of perfectionism in depression. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/ Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 35, 124–132. doi: 10.1037/h0087194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coyne, J. C. (1976). Depression and the response of others. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85, 186–193. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.85.2.186.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Damian, L. E., Stoeber, J., Negru, O., & Baban, A. (2013). On the development of perfectionism in adolescence: Perceived parental expectations predict longitudinal increases in socially prescribed perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 6, 688–693. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2013.05.021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Edwards, A. L. (1953). The relationship between the judged desirability of a trait and the probability that it will be endorsed. Journal of Applied Psychology, 37, 90–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Einstein, D. A., Lovibond, P. F., & Gaston, J. E. (2000). Relationship between perfectionism and emotional symptoms in an adolescent sample. Australian Journal of Psychology, 52, 89–93. doi: 10.1080/00049530008255373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Enns, M. W., & Cox, B. J. (1999). Perfectionism and depression symptom severity in major depressive disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 783–794. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(98)00188-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Enns, M. W., Cox, B. J., & Clara, I. (2002). Adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism: Developmental origins and association with depression proneness. Personality and Individual Differences, 33, 921–935. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(01)00202-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Feldman, J. M., Ortega, A. N., McQuaid, E. L., & Canino, G. (2006). Comorbidity between asthma attacks and internalizing disorders among Puerto Rican children at one-year follow-up. Psychosomatics, 47, 333–339. doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.47.4.333.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2002). Perfectionism: Theory, research, and treatment. Washington: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Blankstein, K., & O’Brien, S. (1991). Perfectionism and learned resourcefulness in depression and self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 61–68. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(91)90132-U.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Blankstein, K. R., & Mosher, S. W. (1995). Perfectionism, life events, and depressive symptoms: A test of a diathesis-stress model. Current Psychology, 14, 112–137. doi: 10.1007/BF02686885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Boucher, D. J., Davidson, L. A., & Munro, Y. (1997). The child–adolescent perfectionism scale: Development, validation and association with adjustment. Unpublished manuscript, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.Google Scholar
  28. Flett, G. L., Coulter, L. M., Hewitt, P. L., & Nepon, T. (2011a). Perfectionism, rumination, worry, and depressive symptoms in early adolescents. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 26, 159–176. doi: 10.1177/0829573511422039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Flett, G. L., Panico, T., & Hewitt, P. L. (2011b). Perfectionism, type A behavior, and self-efficacy in depression and health symptoms among adolescents. Current Psychology, 30, 105–116. doi: 10.1007/s12144-011-9103-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Oliver, J. M., & Macdonald, S. (2002a). Perfectionism in children and their parents: A developmental analysis. In G. L. Flett & P. L. Hewitt (Eds.), Perfectionism: Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 89–132). Washington: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Flett, G. L., Madorsky, D., Hewitt, P. L., & Heisel, M. J. (2002b). Perfectionism cognitions, rumination, and psychological distress. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 20, 33–47. doi: 10.1023/A:1015128904007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Flett, G. L., Besser, A., Davis, R. A., & Hewitt, P. L. (2003). Dimensions of perfectionism, unconditional self-acceptance, and depression. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 21, 119–138. doi: 10.1023/A:1025051431957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Flett, G. L., Greene, A., & Hewitt, P. L. (2004). Dimensions of perfectionism and anxiety sensitivity. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22, 39–57. doi: 10.1023/B:JORE.0000011576.18538.8e.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fröjd, S. A., Nissinen, E. S., Pelkonen, M. U., Marttunen, M. J., Koivisto, A. M., & Kaltiala-Heino, R. (2008). Depression and school performance in middle adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 485–498. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2007.08.006.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Frost, R. O., Heimberg, R. G., Holt, C. S., Mattia, J. I., & Neubauer, A. L. (1993). A comparison of two measures of perfection. Personality and Individual Differences, 14, 119–126. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(93)90181-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hammen, C. (1991). The generation of stress in the course of unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 555–561. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.100.4.555.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hawley, L. L., Ho, M. H. R., Zuroff, D. C., & Blatt, S. J. (2006). The relationship of perfectionism, depression, and therapeutic alliance during treatment for depression: Latent difference score analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 930–942. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.74.5.930.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1991a). Dimensions of perfectionism in unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 98–101. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.100.1.98.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1991b). Perfectionism in the self and social contexts: Conceptualization, assessment, and association with psychopathology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 456–470. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.60.3.456.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., & Ediger, E. (1996). Perfectionism and depression: Longitudinal assessment of a specific vulnerability hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 276–280. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.105.2.276.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hewitt, P. L., Newton, J., Flett, G. L., & Callander, L. (1997). Perfectionism and suicide ideation in adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25, 95–101. doi: 10.1023/A:1025723327188.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., Ediger, E., Norton, G. R., & Flynn, C. A. (1998). Perfectionism in chronic and state symptoms of depression. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 30, 234–242. doi: 10.1037/ h0087066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hewitt, P. L., Caelian, C. F., Flett, G. L., Sherry, S. B., Collins, L., & Flynn, C. A. (2002). Perfectionism in children: Associations with depression, anxiety, and anger. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1049–1061. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(01)00109-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., Sherry, S. B., Habke, M., Parkin, M., Lam, R. W., & Stein, M. B. (2003). The interpersonal expression of perfection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1303–1325. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.6.1303.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55. doi: 10.1080/10705519909540118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Huang, L., Stroul, B., Friedman, R., Mrazek, P., Friesen, B., Pires, S., & Mayberg, S. (2005). Transforming mental health care for children and their families. American Psychologist, 60, 615–627. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.60.6.615.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Huggins, L., Davis, M. C., Rooney, R., & Kane, R. (2008). Socially prescribed and self-oriented perfectionism as predictors of depressive diagnosis in preadolescents. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 18, 182–194. doi: 10.1375/ajgc.18.2.182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Joiner, T. E. (1994). Contagious depression: Existence, specificity to depressive symptoms, and the role of reassurance seeking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 287–296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Joiner, T. E., Jr., Katz, J., & Lew, A. (1997). Self-verification and depression in youth psychiatric inpatients. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 608–618. doi: 10.1037/00 21-843X. 106.4.608.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kenney‐Benson, G. A., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2005). The role of mothers’ use of control in children’s perfectionism: Implications for the development of children’s depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality, 73, 23–46. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2004.00303.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kessler, R. C., Avenevoli, S., & Merikangas, K. R. (2001). Mood disorders in children and adolescents: An epidemiologic perspective. Biological Psychiatry, 49, 1002–1014.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Klibert, J. J., Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., & Saito, M. (2005). Adaptive and maladaptive aspects of self-oriented versus socially-prescribed perfectionism. Journal of College Student Development, 46, 141–156. doi: 10.1353/csd.2005.0017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford.Google Scholar
  55. Kupersmidt, J. B., Coie, J. D., & Dodge, K. A. (1996). The role of poor peer relationships in the development of disorder. In S. R. Asher & J. D. Coie (Eds.), Peer rejection in childhood (pp. 274–305). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Little, R. (1988). A test of missing completely at random for multivariate data with missing values. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 83, 1198–1202. doi: 10.1080/ 01621459.1988.10478722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Masten, A. S., & Cicchetti, D. (2010). Editorial: Developmental cascades. Development and Psychopathology, 22, 491–495. doi: 10.1017/S0954579410000222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McCreary, B. T., Joiner, T. E., Schmidt, N. B., & Ialongo, N. S. (2004). The structure and correlates of perfectionism in African American children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33, 313–324. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp3302_13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. McGrath, D. S., Sherry, S. B., Stewart, S. H., Mushquash, A. R., Allen, S. L., Nealis, L. J., & Sherry, D. L. (2012). Reciprocal relations between self-critical perfectionism and depressive symptoms: Evidence from a short-term, four-wave longitudinal study. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 44, 169–181. doi: 10.1037/a0027764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Merikangas, K. R., He, M. J. P., Burstein, M., Swanson, M. S. A., Avenevoli, S., Cui, M. L., & Swendsen, J. (2010). Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in US adolescents: Results from the national comorbidity study-adolescent supplement (NCS-A). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49, 980–989. doi: 10.1016/ j.jaac.2010.05.017.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Girgus, J. S. (1994). The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 424–443. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.115.3.424.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. O’Connor, R. C., Dixon, D., & Rasmussen, S. (2009). The structure and temporal stability of the child and adolescent perfectionism scale. Psychological Assessment, 21, 437–443. doi: 10.1037/a0016264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. O’Connor, R. C., Rasmussen, S., & Hawton, K. (2010). Predicting depression, anxiety and self-harm in adolescents: The role of perfectionism and acute life stress. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 52–59. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.09.008.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Orth, U., Robins, R., & Roberts, B. W. (2008). Low self-esteem prospectively predicts depression in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 695–708. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.3.695.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Persons, J. B., & Miranda, J. (1992). Cognitive theories of vulnerability to depression: Reconciling negative evidence. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 16, 485–502. doi: 10.1007/BF01183170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Reynolds, C. R., & Kamphaus, R. W. (2004). Behavior assessment system for children - second edition manual. Minneapolis: Pearson.Google Scholar
  67. Rice, K. G., & Aldea, M. A. (2006). State dependence and trait stability of perfectionism: A short-term longitudinal study. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 205–213. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.53.2.205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rice, K. G., Leever, B. A., Noggle, C. A., & Lapsley, D. K. (2007). Perfectionism and depressive symptoms in early adolescence. Psychology in the Schools, 44(2), 139–156. doi: 10.1002/pits.20212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Rudolph, K. D., Flynn, M., & Abaied, J. L. (2008). A developmental perspective on interpersonal theories of youth depression. In J. R. Z. Abela & B. L. Hankin (Eds.), Child and adolescent depression: Causes, treatment, and prevention (pp. 79–102). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  70. Salmela-Aro, K., & Nurmi, J. (1996). Depressive symptoms and personal project appraisals: A cross-lagged longitudinal study. Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 373–381. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(96)00078-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Scott, K. M., Von Korff, M., Angermeyer, M. C., Benjet, C., Bruffaerts, R., de Girolamo, G., & Kessler, R. C. (2011). Association of childhood adversities and early-onset mental disorders with adult-onset chronic physical conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68, 838–844. doi: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.77.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Segal, Z. V., & Ingram, R. E. (1994). Mood priming and construct activation in tests of cognitive vulnerability to unipolar depression. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 663–695. doi: 10.1016/0272-7358(94)90003-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Shafran, R., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2002). Clinical perfectionism: A cognitive–behavioural analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 773–791. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967%2801%2900059-6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shahar, G., Blatt, S. J., Zuroff, D. C., Kuperminc, G. P., & Leadbeater, B. J. (2004). Reciprocal relations between depressive symptoms and self-criticism (but not dependency) among early adolescent girls (but not boys). Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28, 85–103. doi: 10.1023/B:COTR.0000016932.82038.d0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sherry, S. B., Mackinnon, S. P., Macneil, M. A., & Fitzpatrick, S. (2012). Discrepancies confer vulnerability to depressive symptoms: A three-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60, 112–126. doi: 10.1037/a0030439.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sherry, S. B., Richards, J. E., Sherry, D. L., & Stewart, S. H. (2014). Self-critical perfectionism is a vulnerability factor for depression but not anxiety: A 12-month, 3-wave, longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 52, 1–5. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2014.05.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Slaney, R. B., Rice, K. G., Mobley, M., Trippi, J., & Ashby, I. (2001). The revised almost perfect scale. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34, 130–145.Google Scholar
  78. Soenens, B., Luyckx, K., Vansteenkiste, M., Luyten, P., Duriez, B., & Goossens, L. (2008). Maladaptive perfectionism as an intervening variable between psychological control and adolescent depressive symptoms: A three-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 465–474. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.22.3.465.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Stoeber, J., Otto, K., & Dalbert, C. (2009). Perfectionism and the big five: Conscientiousness predicts longitudinal increases in self-oriented perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 363–368. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.04.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Teasdale, J. D. (1983). Negative thinking in depression: Cause, effect, or reciprocal relationship? Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 5, 3–25. doi: 10.1016/0146-6402(83)90013–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tram, J. M., & Cole, D. A. (2006). A multimethod examination of the stability of depressive symptoms in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 674–686. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.115.4.674.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Weisz, J. (1998). Effects of psychopathology with children and adolescents: What we know and what we need to learn. In D. Cicchetti & S. L. Toth (Eds.), Rochester symposia on developmental psychopathology: Vol. 9. Developmental approaches to prevention and intervention (pp. 22–49). Rochester: University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  83. Yamamoto, Y., & Holloway, S. D. (2010). Parental expectations and children’s academic performance in sociocultural context. Educational Psychology Review, 22, 189–214. doi: 10.1007/s10648-010-9121-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zuroff, D. C., Blatt, S. J., Sanislow, C. A., Bondi, C. M., & Pilkonis, P. A. (1999). Vulnerability to depression: Reexamining state dependence and relative stability. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108, 76–89. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.108.1.76.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OttawaOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations