Science

Today’s young people are more perfectionist and experience more parental pressure (than previous generations).

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Today, in most societies, perfectionism is often viewed as a blessing, and in some cases misunderstood. However, it can occur as a result of certain forms of pressure and can have long-term psychological health effects, such as causing depression and anxiety. A recent study published in the Psychological Bulletin found that young people are becoming more and more perfectionists. This phenomenon may be due, in part, to stronger parental pressure than that suffered by previous generations. According to the researchers, parents strive to meet the expectations and standards of an increasingly competitive society and expect their children to achieve ever greater professional and social success.

Perfectionism is a personality trait that often leads to an unhealthy desire to meet too high “standards” and behavior that is overly critical of one’s own shortcomings. Often becoming a permanent trait, it can manifest itself in several forms. It can be self-oriented and include self-oriented “standards of excellence”. He can also be focused on others when they should also be perfectionists. The third form is socially prescribed and pre-established by society.

These three forms of perfectionism can exist simultaneously in the same person and can negatively exacerbate each other’s effects. Perfectionism can also be passed down from generation to generation in the case of children raised by perfectionist parents.

To some extent, this character trait could be perceived as positive and productive when it is associated with meticulousness. However, some research has shown that, if taken too far, it can increase nervousness and reduce consciousness with age.

A new study by the London School of Economics (LSE) and St John’s University of York shows that perfectionism can negatively impact mental health and cause severe depression and anxiety. “Perfectionism contributes to many psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders,” warns Thomas Curran, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychological and behavioral sciences at the London School of Economics.

These psychological influences are all the more disturbing because the character trait seems to get stronger with each generation. According to the authors, this growth is likely due to the neoliberal trend in society that encourages competitiveness and individualism. This trend can lead parents to put more pressure on their children, who become perfectionists, to live up to their expectations.

“The burden of living up to ideals has never been greater, and this could be the cause of a looming public health problem,” worries Andrew P. Hill, professor of sports psychology and psychology at York St John’s University and co-author of the study. new research.

Pressures associated with a hyper-competitive society

As part of their study, the British scientists conducted two meta-analyses of data involving more than 20,000 students from the US, UK and Canada. One review, including 21 studies of more than 7,000 college students, found that parental pressure was only moderately associated with self- and other-oriented perfectionism. On the other hand, it would be more broadly associated with society’s pre-established perfectionism.

The findings are consistent with the current trend of parents monitoring their children’s learning more closely, the researchers said. Social inequality will also cause pressure when more vulnerable families are more concerned about the future and success of their children because they want better conditions.

In addition, parental expectations are said to have more influence than criticism when it comes to self- or other-oriented perfectionism. “Parental expectations have a high price when they are perceived as excessive. Young people internalize these expectations and depend on them for their self-esteem,” says Curran.

The second meta-analysis included 84 studies (conducted between 1989 and 2021) involving 23,975 students. The researchers found a dramatic increase in youth perceptions, parental expectations and criticism over the last 32 years. The greatest increase was observed in parental expectations. This increase is directly related to the accentuation of the perfectionist personality among young people.

However, the researchers note that parents are not to blame, as they themselves are under the pressure of a hyper-competitive society, ever-increasing academic pressure, ever-growing social inequality and technological innovations seeking to uphold almost unrealistic social ideals. .

In addition, the study only focused on young people from three social models (English, American and Canadian) and may not necessarily be applied to all young people. “Focusing on learning and development, rather than test scores or social media, helps kids develop healthy self-esteem that doesn’t depend on validation from others or external indicators,” says Curran.

Psychological Bulletin.

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