Skip to main content

How is Multidimensional Trait Perfectionism Related to Anxiety Across Time in First-Generation Secondary Students?


The purpose of this study was to examine associations between multidimensional perfectionism and anxiety across the school year in a sample of first-generation high school students (i.e., neither parent completed post-secondary school). Three competing theoretical models were tested (i.e., the vulnerability model, in which perfectionism predicts increased psychopathology; the scar model, in which psychopathology predicts increased levels of perfectionism; and the reciprocal-causality model, in which perfectionism and psychopathology predict each other over time). The sample included 148 high school students (44% boys) between the ages of 13 and 18 (M = 14.90 years; SD = 1.29) who were surveyed at the beginning and end of the school year. Using a half-longitudinal design with latent cross-lagged analyses, results indicated that greater anxiety predicted higher levels of self-oriented perfectionism over time, after accounting for age, sex, emotional stability, and conscientiousness. Findings support the scar model whereby psychopathology predicts perfectionism in first-generation youth.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Availability of Data and Material

Due to REB guidelines, data can not be provided.

Code Availability

Syntax for primary analyses can be provided upon request.


  1. STARR Academy is a pseudonym to ensure confidentiality of the participants.


  • Akram, U., Ellis, J. G., Barclay, N. L., & Takei, N. (2015). Anxiety mediates the relationship between perfectionism and insomnia symptoms: A longitudinal study. PLoS ONE, 10, e0138865.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Altemus, M., Sarvaiya, N., & Epperson, C. N. (2014). Sex differences in anxiety and depression clinical perspectives. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 35(3), 320–330.

  • Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2007). Empirical, theoretical, and practical advantages of the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and social psychology review, 11(2), 150–166

  • Asseraf, M., & Vaillancourt, T. (2015). Longitudinal links between perfectionism and depression in children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 895–908.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Barker, M. M., Beresford, B., Bland, M., & Fraser, L. K. (2019). Prevalence and incidence of anxiety and depression among children, adolescents, and young adults with life-limiting conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 173(9), 835–844

  • Cole, D. A., & Maxwell, S. E. (2003). Testing mediational models with longitudinal data Questions and tips in the use of structural equation modeling. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112(4), 558.

  • Curran, T., & Hill, A. (2019). Perfectionism is increasing over time. A meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016. Psychological Bulletin, 145(4), 410–429.

  • Damian, L. E., Negru-Subtirica, O., Stoeber, J., & Baban, A. (2017). Perfectionistic concerns predict increases in adolescents’ anxiety symptoms: A three-wave longitudinal study. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 30, 551–561.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunkley, D. M., Starrs, C. J., Gouveia, L., Moroz, M., & Kivlighan, D. M. (2020). Self-critical perfectionism and lower daily perceived control predict depressive and anxious symptoms over four years. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 67(6), 736–746.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Einstein, D. A., Lovibond, P. F., & Gaston, J. E. (2000). The relationship between perfectionism and emotional symptoms in an adolescent sample. Australian Journal of Psychology, 52, 89–93. doi:

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Egan, S., Wade, J., T. D., & Shafran, R. (2011). Perfectionism as a transdiagnostic process: A clinical review. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(2), 203–212.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Essau, C. A., Lewinsohn, P. M., Olaya, B., & Seeley, J. R. (2014). Anxiety disorders in adolescents and psychosocial outcomes at age 30. Journal of Affective Disorders, 163, 125–132.

  • Finnie, R., Wismer, A., & Mueller, R. E. (2015). Access and barriers to postsecondary education: Evidence from the youth in transition survey. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 45(2), 229–262

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flaxman, P. E., Menard, J., Bond, F. W., & Kinman, G. (2012). Academics’ experiences of a respite from work: Effects of self-critical perfectionism and perseverative cognition on postrespite well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 854–865. doi:

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Besser, A., Su, C., Vaillancourt, T., Boucher, D., Munro, Y. , Davidson, L. A., & Gale, O. (2016). The child-adolescent perfectionism scale: Development, psychometric properties, and associations with stress, distress, and psychiatric symptoms. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 34(7), 634–652.

  • Flett, G. L., Panico, T., & Hewitt, P. L. (2011). Perfectionism, type A behavior, and self-efficacy in depression and health symptoms among adolescents. Current Psychology, 30(2), 105–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garber, J., & Weersing, V. R. (2010). Comorbidity of anxiety and depression in youth: Implications for treatment and prevention. Clinical Psychology, 17(4), 293–306.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Gaudier-Diaz, M. M., Sinisterra, M., & Muscatell, K. A. (2019). Motivation, belongingness, and anxiety in neuroscience undergraduates: Emphasizing first-generation college students. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 17(2), A145

  • Gautreau, C. M., Sherry, S. B., Mushquash, A. R., & Stewart, S. H. (2015). Is self-critical perfectionism an antecedent of or a consequence of social anxiety, or both? A 12-month three-wave longitudinal study. Personality and Individual Differences, 82, 125–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B. Jr. (2003). A very brief measure of the big five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504–528.

  • Herman, K. C., Wang, K., Trotter, R., Reinke, W. M., & Ialongo, N. (2013). Developmental trajectories of maladaptive perfectionism among African American adolescents. Child Development, 84, 1633–1650. doi:

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

  • Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1991). Perfectionism in the self and social contexts Conceptualization, assessment, and association with psychopathology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 456–470. doi:

  • Hood, S., Barrickman, N., Djerdjian, N., Farr, M., Gerrits, R. J., Lawford, H. … Hull, K. (2020). Some believe, not all achieve: The role of active learning practices in anxiety and academic self-efficacy in first-generation college students. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 2(1), 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Horney, K. (1950). Neurosis and human growth: The struggle toward self-realization. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1998). Fit indices in covariance structure modeling. Sensitivity to underparameterized model misspecification. Psychological Methods, 3(4), 424–453.

  • Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6(1), 1–55.

  • Karababa, A. (2020). The moderating role of hope in the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and anxiety among early adolescents. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, 181, 159–170.

  • Kotov, R., Gamez, W., Schmidt, F., & Watson, D. (2010). Linking “big” personality traits to anxiety, depressive, and substance use disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(5), 768–821.

  • Limburg, K., Watson, H. J., Hagger, M. S., & Egan, S. J. (2017). The relationship between perfectionism and psychopathology: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(10), 1301–1326.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. Guilford Press

  • Little, T. D., Rhemtulla, M., Gibson, K., & Schoemann, A. M. (2013). Why the items versus parcels controversy needn’t be one. Psychological Methods, 18(3), 285–300.

  • Mandel, T., Dunkley, D. M., & Moroz, M. (2015). Self-critical perfectionism and depressive and anxious symptoms over 4 years: The mediating role of daily stress activity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62, 703–717. doi:

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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, 44(3), 169–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moroz, M., & Dunkley, D. M. (2019). Self-critical perfectionism, experiential avoidance, and depressive symptoms over two years: A three-wave longitudinal study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 112, 18–27.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2017). Mplus User’s Guide (8th ed.). Los Angeles, CA

  • 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pascarella, E. T., Pierson, C. T., Wolniak, G. C., & Terenzini, P. T. (2004). First-generation college students: Additional evidence on college experiences and outcomes. The Journal of Higher Education, 75(3), 249–284.

  • Pratt, I. S., Harwood, H. B., Cavazos, J. T., & Ditzfield, C. P. (2019). Should I stay or should I go? Retention in first-generation college students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 21(1), 105–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Radunzel, J. (2018). Examining retention and transfer in relation to incoming student data for first-generation and continuing-generation students: What differences exist? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds, C. R., & Richmond, B. O. (2008).Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale–Second (RCMAS-2). Los Angeles, CA:Western Psychological Services

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sironic, A., & Reeve, R. A. (2015).A combined analysis of the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS), Child and Adolescent Perfectionism Scale (CAPS), and Almost Perfect Scale—Revised (APS-R): Different perfectionist profiles in adolescent high school students. Psychological Assessment, 27, 1471–1483.

  • Smith, M. M., Saklofske, D. H., Yan, G., & Sherry, S. B. (2017). Does perfectionism predict depression, anxiety, stress, and life satisfaction after controlling for neuroticism? A study of Canadian and Chinese undergraduates. Journal of Individual Differences, 38, 63–70.

  • Smith, M. M., Sherry, S. B., Ray, C., Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (2021). Is perfectionism a vulnerability factor for depressive symptoms, a complication of depressive symptoms, or both? A meta-analytic test of 67 longitudinal studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 84, 101982.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, M. M., Vidovic, V., Sherry, S. B., Stewart, S. H., & Saklofske, D. H. (2018). Are perfectionism dimensions risk factors for anxiety symptoms? A meta-analysis of 11 longitudinal studies. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 31(1), 4–20.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sommerfeld, E., & Malek, S. (2019). Perfectionism moderates the relationship between thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness and suicide ideation in adolescents. Psychiatric Quarterly, 90, 671–681.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stricker, J., Buecker, S., Schneider, M., & Preckel, F. (2019). Multidimensional perfectionism and the big five personality traits: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Personality, 33, 176–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stoeber, J., & Otto, K. (2006). Positive conceptions of perfectionism: Approaches, evidence, challenges. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(4), 295–319.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tobin, R., & Dunkley, D. (2021). Self-critical perfectionism and lower mindfulness and self- compassion predict anxious and depressive symptoms over two years. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 136, 103780.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vazsonyi, A. T., Ksinan, A., Mikuska, J., & Jiskrova, G. (2015). The Big Five and adolescent adjustment: An empirical test across six cultures. Personality and Individual Differences, 83, 234–244.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warburton, E. C., Bugarin, R., & Nunez, A. M. (2001). Bridging the gap: Academic preparation and postsecondary success of first-generation students. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiens, K., Bhattaria, A., Pedram, P., Dores, A., Williams, J., Bulloch, A., & Patten, S. (2020). A growing need for youth mental health services in Canada: Examining trends in youth mental health from 2011 to 2018. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 29, e115.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Woodward, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2001).Life course outcomes of young people with anxiety disorders in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 1086–1093.

Download references


We would like to acknowledge that this research was supported by an Insight grant (435-2017-1472) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). We would also like to acknowledge the late Dr. Zopito Marini, who was fundamental in the design and initial success of this research study. We continue to work on this study, always keeping his teachings in mind.


This research was supported by an Insight grant (435-2017-1472) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and data collection were performed by Natalie Spadafora, Danielle Molnar and Dawn Zinga. Data analysis was performed by Natalie Spadafora, Melissa Blackburn and Danielle Molnar. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Natalie Spadafora, Melissa Blackburn and Tabitha Methot-Jones. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natalie Spadafora.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of Interest/Competing Interests

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary Material 1

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Spadafora, N., Blackburn, M., Methot-Jones, T. et al. How is Multidimensional Trait Perfectionism Related to Anxiety Across Time in First-Generation Secondary Students?. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 44, 1043–1053 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Perfectionism
  • Anxiety
  • Youth
  • First-generation
  • Mental health
  • Personality