Gotwals, J.K. and Stoeber, J. and Dunn, J.G.H. and Stoll, O.
Are perfectionistic strivings in sport adaptive? A systematic review of confirmatory, contradictory, and mixed evidence.
Canadian Psychology, 53
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A controversial issue in sport perfectionism research concerns the degree to which athletes’ perfectionistic tendencies are adaptive or maladaptive. Insight into this issue can be obtained by distinguishing between two perfectionism dimensions: perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns. Past narrative reviews concede that perfectionistic concerns are maladaptive in sport, but offer contrasting conclusions about whether athletes’ perfectionistic strivings are adaptive or maladaptive (see Flett & Hewitt, 2005; Hall, 2006; Stoeber, 2011). To address this discrepancy, this review systematically documented, categorized, and quantitatively analyzed 201 correlations from 31 studies on perfectionism in athletes. When bivariate correlations were regarded, the proportion of evidence associating perfectionistic strivings with adaptive characteristics in sport was slightly greater than the proportion of evidence associating the dimension with maladaptive characteristics in sport. When partial correlations were regarded (i.e., correlations that controlled for overlap with perfectionistic concerns), a clear majority of evidence associated perfectionistic strivings with adaptive characteristics and only a small minority associated it with maladaptive characteristics. Across both instances, though, considerable evidence (as represented by nonsignificant correlations) associated perfectionistic strivings with neither adaptive nor maladaptive characteristics. Collectively, these findings suggest that perfectionistic strivings among athletes are predominantly adaptive, occasionally neutral, and rarely maladaptive. However, this trend is only apparent when the negative influence of perfectionistic concerns is controlled. Implications of these findings on future research directions and applied sport psychology practice are discussed.
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