Teasing out normal and neurotic perfectionism from multidimensional perfectionism scales

Bryan Christopher Smyth, Marquette University


The construct of perfectionism can be viewed in two ways. Neurotic Perfectionism is associated with increased symptoms of psychiatric disorders and measures of maladjustment. Conversely, Normal Perfectionism is associated with positive striving that leads to excellence and high self-esteem. The two prominent multidimensional measures of perfectionism did not account for this distinction. This may explain the equivocal results of investigations that have used them. This study attempted to tease out factors of Normal and Neurotic Perfectionism that may be contained within measures of perfectionism. To do so, a factor analysis of items from Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate's (1990) Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, Hewitt and Flett's (1991b) Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, and the Perfectionism Factor of the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale was conducted. Results indicated that items from these scales cluster to form four factors. To validate these factors, multiple regression and canonical correlation analyses were performed. As predicted, one of these factors measured Neurotic Perfectionism. Items from this factor measured the following: an inability to accept any imperfections in performance, a compulsion to avoid imperfection out of a fear of failure, a sense that one must be perfect to be accepted, and a tendency to engage in self-belittling statements. The Neurotic Perfectionism factor was related to increased psychological symptoms, a diminished sense of well-being, poorer self-esteem, fewer pleasurable activities experienced, and a reduced sense of self-actualization. The setting of high standards was not related to maladaptive perfectionism. Instead, items that measured the setting of lofty goals appeared to comprise a measure of Normal Perfectionism. The Normal Perfectionism factor predicted increased pleasant events and social facility. In addition, factors labeled Meticulousness and Imposed Perfectionism were also extracted. Implications for use of these perfectionism scales are discussed.

Recommended Citation

Smyth, Bryan Christopher, "Teasing out normal and neurotic perfectionism from multidimensional perfectionism scales" (2001). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3049942.