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This study investigates the functional nature of perfectionism in sport through a person-oriented comparison of healthy and unhealthy perfectionist athletes’ levels of burnout. A sample of 117 intercollegiate varsity student-athletes (M age = 21.28 years, SD = 2.05) completed measures that assessed multidimensional sport-based perfectionism and athlete burnout indices (i.e., reduced accomplishment, sport devaluation, and emotional/physical exhaustion). Cluster analysis revealed that the sample could be represented by four theoretically meaningful clusters: Parent-Oriented Unhealthy Perfectionists, Doubt-Oriented Unhealthy Perfectionists, Healthy Perfectionists, and Non-Perfectionists. Intercluster comparisons revealed that healthy perfectionists reported (a) lower levels on all athlete burnout indices in comparison with both doubt-oriented unhealthy perfectionists and nonperfectionists and (b) lower levels of emotional/physical exhaustion in comparison with parent-oriented unhealthy perfectionists (all ps < .05). The degree to which findings fit within perfectionism/burnout theory and can serve as an example for research with enhanced relevancy to applied sport psychology contexts is discussed.
Gotwals is with the School of Kinesiology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.