In a first of its kind, researchers from the University of Bath, in association with York St. John University, initiated a study to examine generational differences of perfectionism, which is defined as excessive high personal standard and self-evaluation.
According to the study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, perfectionism is on the increase among the current generation of millennials, compared to the previous generation approximately 30 years ago.
Researchers gathered data from 41,641 American, British and Canadian college students from 164 samples who had taken the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, a test that measured perfectionism and generational changes — from 1989 to 2017.
Three types of perfectionism were studied: self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented.
“The extent to which young people attach an irrational importance to being perfect, hold unrealistic expectations of themselves, and are highly self-critical has increased by 10 percent,” the study reads.
“The extent to which young people impose unrealistic standards on those around them and evaluate others critically has increased by 16 percent. The extent to which young people perceive that their environment is excessively demanding, that others judge them harshly, and that they must display perfection to secure approval has risen by 33 percent.”
What is contributing to the rise of perfectionism among millennials?
According to Thomas Curran, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers, social media has potentially driven young adults to exhibit excessive levels of self-criticism, often leading to problems with self-image and subsequent social isolation.
Additionally, money, higher education, and particular career goals are also influencing the mind of young people triggering perfectionism; although, as Curran stated, this hypothesis has not been tested and may need research to get a better understanding.
“Meritocracy places a strong need for young people to strive, perform and achieve in modern life,” said Curran. “Young people are responding by reporting increasingly unrealistic educational and professional expectations for themselves. As a result, perfectionism is rising among millennials.”