A Test of Perfectionistic Vulnerability Following Competitive Failure Among College Athletes

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Bath
  • 2 York St John University
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Perfectionism purportedly bestows vulnerability to distress through an interaction with achievement and interpersonal stress. The authors test this by assessing athletes’ perfectionism and subsequent self-conscious emotion following repeated competitive failure. A total of 60 college athletes undertook three 4-min competitive sprint trials on a cycle ergometer and were instructed that they had performed the worst of all competitors on each occasion. Measures of perfectionism (self-oriented and socially prescribed) were taken at baseline and measures of pride, guilt, and shame were taken at baseline and three times following each successive failure. Across the successive failures, self-oriented perfectionism predicted within-person trajectories of decreasing pride and increasing guilt. Socially prescribed perfectionism predicted within-person trajectories of increasing shame and guilt. Furthermore, a combination of high self-oriented and high socially prescribed perfectionism predicted the steepest within-person increases in shame and guilt. Findings support an achievement-specific vulnerability hypothesis whereby those higher in perfectionism experience pronounced distress following competitive failure.

Curran is with the Dept. for Health, Centre for Motivation and Health Behaviour Change, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom. Hill is with the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, York St. John University, York, United Kingdom.

Curran (t.curran@bath.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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