Perfectionism, social problem-solving ability, and psychological distress

  • Gordon L. Flett
  • Paul L. Hewitt
  • Kirk R. Blankstein
  • Melanie Solnik
  • Michelle Van Brunschot


The present research examined the relation between dimensions of perfectionism and self-appraised problem-solving behaviors and attitudes. Specifically, in two separate studies, we tested the hypothesis that socially prescribed perfectionism (i.e., the perception that others demand perfection from the self) is associated with poorer social problem-solving ability. In addition, measures of psychological adjustment were included in Study 2 so that we could (1) examine whether socially prescribed perfectionism and poorer problem-solving ability were still associated after removing variance associated with psychological distress; and (2) compare depression and anxiety in terms of their respective associations with social problem-solving ability. Correlational analyses of the data from both studies confirmed that socially prescribed perfectionism is associated with more negative self-perceptions of problem-solving orientation, and that the link between socially prescribed perfectionism and negative perceptions of problem-solving orientation remains present after removing variance due to levels of negative affectivity. Both depression and anxiety were associated with a negative problem-solving orientation, but only depression was associated with more negative appraisals of actual problem-solving skills. The results suggest that perceived exposure to imposed standards of perfection undermines the problem-solving process and that individuals with high levels of socially prescribed perfectionism are particularly in need of counseling interventions designed to provide a more positive problem-solving orientation.


Correlational Analysis Psychological Distress Negative Affectivity Separate Study Psychological Adjustment 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon L. Flett
    • 1
  • Paul L. Hewitt
    • 2
  • Kirk R. Blankstein
    • 3
  • Melanie Solnik
    • 1
  • Michelle Van Brunschot
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityNorth YorkCanada
  2. 2.University of British ColumbiaCanada
  3. 3.Erindale CollegeUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.University of Western OntarioCanada

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