Family patterns of perfectionism: An examination of elite junior athletes and their parents

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Objectives:The purpose of the present study was to investigate the origins of self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented perfectionism in elite junior athletes. This was achieved by examining the relationships between parents’ and athletes’ multidimensional perfectionistic tendencies and testing two models of perfectionism development: the social learning and social expectations models.Methods:Two samples of junior athletes and their parents (Sample 1, n = 302; Sample 2, n = 259) completed a self-report version of Hewitt and Flett’s (2004) Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. Athletes also completed a second version of this scale, which captured their perceptions of parents’ perfectionism.Results:Regression analyses revealed that athletes’ self-oriented perfectionism was predicted by parents’ self-oriented perfectionism, athletes’ other-oriented perfectionism was predicted by parents’ other-oriented perfectionism, and athletes’ socially prescribed perfectionism was predicted by parents’ socially prescribed and other-oriented perfectionism. Regression analyses also revealed that athletes’ perceptions of their parents’ perfectionism, but not parents’ self-reported perfectionism, emerged as a significant predictor of athletes’ own perfectionism. Finally, moderation analyses revealed that the intergenerational transmission of perfectionism between parents and their athletic child was not limited to same-sex, parent–child dyads.Conclusions:Based on the results, it appears the development of perfectionism dimensions in athletes can be explained by social learning and social expectations pathways, depending on what dimension of perfectionism is being examined. The findings highlight the complex nature of perfectionism development in elite junior sport.

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