Perfectionistic parenting increases children's anxieties, study says

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 11:20 a.m. MST

Though perfectionistic parenting can raise a child's personal perfectionism, it can also make for more anxious children, with little to no improvement in performance, according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

“In our perfectionistic rearing condition, we trained parents to focus on 'getting it just right,' and to focus on the child’s mistakes and the negative consequences of those mistakes," researcher Jennifer Hudson said, in a release on the study.

"This research found that the consequence of this behavior is that it increased the child’s perfectionism but it did not necessarily result in improved performance,” said Hudson, of the Centre for Emotional Health at the Macquarie University.

Additionally, accuracy with tasks performed by those children conditioned with non-perfectionistic parenting was significantly higher than those with perfectionistic parenting.

For the study, children were defined beforehand as either anxious or non-anxious in their conduct, and the perfectionistic parenting during the research effected both anxious and non-anxious children similarly when it came to performance in tasks, according to the release.

However, self-oriented perfectionism among the children was significantly higher in the anxious group compared with the non-anxious group, according to the researchers.

"The results of this research highlight the potential impact that perfectionistic rearing behaviors may have on the development of anxiety in children," stated a Medical Xpress article on the study.

The study is the first to look at the relationship between perfectionism and maternal anxious-rearing behaviors in children, said the article. It may be able to aid psychologists "from a therapeutic point of view in the treatment of childhood emotional disorders," according to the article.

“These results are remarkable given that they show that even a very short interaction between a parent and child can already affect perfectionism and task performance,” Hudson said.

Mandy Morgan is an intern for the Deseret News, reporting on issues surrounding both family and values in the media. She is a true-blue Aggie, studying journalism and political science at Utah State University, and hails from Highland, Utah.

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