12th Annual Scholarship (April 2011)
made to Dr. Simon Sherry from Canada
on the subject of Perfectionistic concerns, social disconnection and depressive symptoms
Report Abstract (691 words):
The social disconnection model (Hewitt, Flett, Sherry & Caelian, 2006; Sherry, Law, Hewitt, Flett, & Besser, 2008) represents an emerging theoretical framework clarifying how perfectionistic concerns (i.e., negative reactions to failures, exaggerated concerns over other peoples’ criticism and expectations, and nagging self-doubts) generate depressive symptoms through negative social behaviors (e.g., conflictual interactions), cognitions (e.g., seeing other people as uncaring), and outcomes (e.g., romantic breakups).
According to the social disconnection model, people high in perfectionistic concerns are at risk for depressive symptoms because they experience social disconnection (i.e., feeling excluded and unwanted by other people). When interpreting their social worlds, people high in perfectionistic concerns tend to perceive others as dissatisfied with and disapproving of them. Such feelings of disconnection from others are likely to have depressing consequences.
In Study 1 (Sherry, MacKinnon, et al., 2012), we predicted social disconnection would mediate the link between perfectionistic concerns and depressive symptoms. Mediation models are important since they elucidate mechanisms that explain the link between perfectionistic concerns and depressive symptoms.
We recruited 240 participants and the social disconnection model was tested with a 4- wave, 4-week longitudinal design. Results were consistent with predictions. The indirect effect (i.e., mediated effect) of perfectionistic concerns on depressive symptoms through social disconnection was significant. Study 1 indicated people high in perfectionistic concerns are prone to perceiving other people as dissatisfied with them and experience depressive symptoms in response to such perceptions.
Despite promising early support for the social disconnection model (Sherry, MacKinnon et al., 2012), evidence suggests depressive symptoms are caused by numerous variables (Sherry et al., 2008), making it unlikely only social disconnection explains why it is that perfectionistic concerns are linked with depressive symptoms. Hazardous drinking is a problem with established ties to perfectionistic concerns, social problems, and depressive symptoms (Flett et al., 2008). Study 2 expanded the social disconnection model and tested a dual-pathway mediation model wherein social disconnection and hazardous drinking are seen as explaining the relation between perfectionistic concerns and depressive symptoms.
In Study 2 (Sherry, Hewitt, et al., 2012), we proposed people high in perfectionistic concerns attempt to deal with feelings of social disconnection via hazardous drinking. People high in perfectionistic concerns may turn to alcohol in a destructive manner because they feel excluded by other people, and this hazardous drinking, along with their powerful sense of disconnection from other people, leaves them feeling depressed. Thus, we predicted social disconnection and hazardous drinking would mediate the perfectionistic concerns-depressive symptoms link.
We recruited 216 participants and the predicted model was tested with a cross-sectional design. As predicted, results showed the indirect effect (i.e., mediated effect) of perfectionistic concerns on depressive symptoms through social disconnection and hazardous drinking was significant. Results suggest that in an attempt to escape a strong sense of not belonging, people high in perfectionistic concerns turn to alcohol in a self-destructive manner. Now suffering from social disconnection as well as the effects of hazardous drinking, it seems that people high in perfectionistic concerns become depressed.
Funds provided by the H. J. Eysenck Memorial Fund Award were instrumental in getting the required sample sizes needed to complete these research projects.
Flett, G., Goldstein, A., Wall, A., Hewitt, P., Wekerle, C., & Azzi, N. (2008). Perfectionism and binge drinking in Canadian students making the transition to university. Journal of American College Health, 57, 249-253. doi:10.3200/JACH.57.2.249-256
Hewitt, P., Flett, G., Sherry, S., & Caelian, C. (2006). Trait perfectionism dimensions and suicide behavior. In T. Ellis (Ed.), Cognition and suicide: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 215-235). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Sherry, S., Hewitt, P., Stewart, S., MacKinnon, A., Mushquash, A., Flett, G., & Sherry, D. (2012). Social disconnection and hazardous drinking mediate the link between perfectionistic attitudes and depressive symptoms. Manuscript submitted for publication, Dalhousie University.
Sherry, S., Law, A., Hewitt, P., Flett, G., & Besser, A. (2008). Social support as a mediator of the relationship between perfectionism and depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 339-344.
Sherry, S., MacKinnon, A., Fossum, K., Antony, M., Stewart, S., Sherry, D., Nealis, L., & Mushquash, A. (2012). Testing the social disconnection model in a short-term, four- wave longitudinal study. Manuscript submitted for publication, Dalhousie University.
Hans and Sybil Eysenck