Study finds rise in millennial perfectionism, parents and social media blamed

Women and men reported similar levels of perfectionism

Dr. Simon Sherry poses in this undated handout photo. A new study has found a sharp rise in perfectionism, suggesting millennials are more inclined to have unrealistic standards and harsher self-criticism than previous generations. The study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review says perfectionism increased substantially from 1990 to 2015 and that women and men report similar levels of perfectionism. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CRUX Psychology)

Millennials are more inclined to be perfectionists than previous generations, according to a new study that found a rise in perfectionism from 1990 to 2015.

The study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review suggested parental and socio-cultural factors, including a rise in social media, contributed to increasing rates of perfectionism.

Dr. Simon Sherry, one of the study’s authors and a clinical psychologist in Halifax, said perfectionism is a serious and even deadly epidemic in modern western societies.

“We see similarly alarming increases in mental health problems on our university campuses, including depression, anxiety and stress,” Sherry, a professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University, said in an interview Tuesday.

“Perfectionism may be caught up in the rising tide of mental health problems.”

READ MORE: B.C. teens struggling more with anxiety, depression: 2018 report

One of the largest studies ever conducted on perfectionism, the meta-analytic review — a “study of studies” — involved 77 studies and nearly 25,000 participants ranging in age from 15 to 49.

It found that perfectionists tend to strive for flawlessness, have unrealistic standards, and experience intense pressure to be perfect.

They also tend to become more neurotic — characterized by negative emotions like guilt, envy, and anxiety — and less conscientious as time passes, according to the study.

It also found women and men reported similar levels of perfectionism.

Sherry said social media has put unprecedented pressure on children and youth to conform to unrealistic standards.

He said children need to learn to have healthy skepticism toward the seemingly perfect lives promoted through social media and advertisements.

“We need to cultivate a culture-wide skepticism toward these unrealistic and idealized media and social media images we’re being bombarded with,” Sherry said.

The study also found that parental criticism and expectations — including parents that are overly judgmental or hold unrealistically high expectations — can contribute to perfectionism.

Sherry said the so-called helicopter and snowplow styles of parenting put undue pressure on children.

“We often have hovering, controlling and critical parents, who push their kids to be perfect,” he said. “These parents often love their children in a conditional manner … these kids are only as good as their last grade, their soccer game, their last hockey match because the parents love them proportionate to how well they are performing.”

Sherry added: “It’s a very difficult message for a child to internalize. We need to challenge these parents not to nurture or love their children in a performance-contingent way.”

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Advocates call safe drug supply a victory but worry about logistics in pandemic

Pandemic contributes to scarce supply, advocates worried about potential impact on the streets

Greater Victoria survey shows third of respondents did not pay, or partially paid rent for April

Survey of 70 respondents says 40 per cent expect they will not be able to pay May rent

City of Victoria looks to shift tens of millions in 2020 budget due to COVID-19

Mayor Lisa Helps offers her daily municipal, provincial and federal updates

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

BC Transit extends free fare, installs vinyl barriers in some buses

Free fare will now be offered until April 30

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

75-year-old woman rescued from Cowichan Lake

Victim taken to hospital, but expected to recover

Not to become bored the game plan for COVID-19

Board game with an Island map developed by Island family just the remedy for filling time at home

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read