The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
Rising parental expectations and criticism are linked to an increase in perfectionism among college students, which can have damaging mental health consequences, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 20,000 American, Canadian and British college students. They found that young people’s perceptions of their parents’ expectations and criticism have increased over the past 32 years and are linked to an increase in their perfectionism.
“Perfectionism contributes to many psychological conditions, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders,” said lead researcher Thomas Curran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychological and behavioral science at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Study co-author Andrew P. Hill, Ph.D., a professor of sport and exercise psychology at York St John University, added that “the pressure to conform to perfect ideals has never been greater and could be the basis for an impending public health issue.”
The first meta-analysis included 21 studies with data from more than 7,000 college students. Parental expectations and criticism had moderate associations with self-oriented and other-oriented perfectionism and a large association with socially prescribed perfectionism.
The second meta-analysis included 84 studies conducted between 1989 and 2021 with a total of 23,975 college students. Parental expectations, criticism, and their combined parental pressure increased during those 32 years, with parental expectations increasing at the fastest rate by far.
“These trends may help explain increasing mental health issues in young people and suggest this problem will only worsen in the future,” Hill said. “It’s normal for parents to be anxious about their children, but increasingly this anxiety is being interpreted as pressure to be perfect.”