Perfectionism is a major diagnostic criterion for one DSM-III diagnosis, and it has been hypothesized to play a major role in a wide variety of psychopathologies. Yet there is no precise definition of, and there is a paucity of research on, this construct. Based on what has been theorized about perfectionism, a multidimensional measure was developed and several hypotheses regarding the nature of perfectionism were tested in four separate studies. The major dimension of this measure was excessive concern over making mistakes. Five other dimensions were identified, including high personal standards, the perception of high parental expectations, the perception of high parental criticism, the doubting of the quality of one's actions, and a preference for order and organization. Perfectionism and certain of its subscales were correlated with a wide variety of psychopathological symptoms. There was also an association between perfectionism and procrastination. Several subscales of the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS), personal standards and organization, were associated with positive achievement striving and work habits. The MPS was highly correlated with one of the existing measures of perfectionism. Two other existing measures were only moderately correlated with the MPS and with each other. Future studies of perfectionism should take into account the multidimensional nature of the construct.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Beck, A. T. (1976).Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press.
Blatt, S. J., Quinlan, D. M., Chevron, E. S., McDonald, C., & Zuroff, D. C. (1982). Dependency and self-criticism: psychological dimensions of depression.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 113–124.
Blatt, S. J., D'Afflitti, J. P., & Quinlan, D. M. (1976). Experiences of depression in normal young adults.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85, 383–389.
Burns, D. D. (1980, November). The perfectionist's script for self-defeat.Psychology Today, pp. 34–51.
Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: an introductory report.Psychological Medicine, 13, 595–605.
Frost, R. O., Sher, K. J., & Geen, T. (1986). Psychopathology and personality characteristics of nonclinical compulsive checkers.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24, 133–143.
Frost, R. O., & Sher, K. J. (1989). Checking behavior in a threatening situation.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 27, 385–389
Garner, D. M., Olmstead, M. P., & Polivy, J. (1983). Development and validation of a multidimensional eating disorder inventory for anorexia nervosa and bulimia.International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2, 15–34.
Hewitt, P. L., & Dyck, D. G. (1986). Perfectionism, stress, and vulnerability to depression.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 10, 137–142.
Hamachek, D. E. (1978). Psychodynamics of normal and neurotic perfectionism.Psychology, 15, 27–33.
Hollander, M. H. (1965). Perfectionism.Comprehensive Psychiatry, 6, 94–103.
Jones, E. (1918). The anal-erotic character traits. InPapers on psycho-analysis. London: Bailliere, Tindall & Cox.
Jones, R. G. (1968).A factored measure of Ellis' irrational belief systems with personality and maladjustment correlated. Wichita, KS: Test Systems.
Klass, E. T. (1987). Situational approach to assessment of guilt: development and validation of a self-report measure.Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 9, 35–48.
LaPointe, K. A., & Crandell, C. J. (1980). Relationship of irrational beliefs to self-reported depression.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 4, 247–250.
Nelson, R. E. (1977). Irrational beliefs in depression.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45, 1190–1191.
Pacht, A. R. (1984). Reflections on perfection.American Psychologist, 39, 386–390.
Pirot, M. (1986). The pathological thought and dynamics of the perfectionist.Individual Psychology: Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research, and Practice, 42, 51–58.
Rachman, S.J. & Hodgson, R. J. (1980).Obsessions and compulsions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Reed, G. F. (1985).Obsessional experience and compulsive behaviour: A cognitive-structural approach. New York: Academic Press.
Schneider, K. (1958).Psychopathic personalities (J. W. Hamilton, Trans.). New York: Grune & Stratton. (Original work published 1925)
Sher, K. J., Frost, R. O & Otto, R. (1983). Cognitive deficits in compulsive checkers: An exploratory study.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 21 357–363.
Solomon, L. J., & Rothblum, E. D. (1984). Academic procrastination: frequency and cognitive-behavioral correlates.Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31, 503–509.
Sorotzkin, B. (1985). The quest for perfection: Avoiding guilt or avoiding shame?Psychotherapy, 22, 564–571.
Straus, E. W. (1948). On obsession: A clinical and methodological study.Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph, 73.
Welkowitz, J., Lish, J. D. & Bond, R. N. (1985). The Depressive Experiences Questionnaire: Revision and validation.Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 89–94.
About this article
Cite this article
Frost, R.O., Marten, P., Lahart, C. et al. The dimensions of perfectionism. Cogn Ther Res 14, 449–468 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01172967
- perfectionistic thinking
- personal standards