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Research Shows Perfectionism May Be an Inherited Trait

Posted Oct 31, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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New research suggests perfectionists should blame their genes more than their upbringing.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) examines the perils of perfectionism in an article highlighting famous perfectionists. They include James Brown (known to fine his backup singers if they didn’t have pressed shirts and shined shoes), Steve Jobs (who spent money to “make even his computers’ innards beautiful”) and Barbra Streisand (who let small flaws derail release of songs).

“Where does such perfectionism come from?” the Wall Street Journal asks. “Experts have long blamed parents who overemphasized achievement or made their love conditional on meeting certain goals. But recent research suggests that the genes that parents pass along may play an ever bigger role.”

The article cites research on identical twins. One study found identical twins had greater similarities on measures of perfectionism than fraternal twins. Another study of eating disorders found identical twins were more likely to idolize the bodies of celebrities than fraternal twins.

Perfectionism in the extreme can lead to a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, workaholism, procrastination, insomnia and suicide. "Our research shows that successful perfectionists are successful in spite of it, not because of it," Minneapolis psychologist Tom Greenspon told the newspaper.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Perfectionism, ‘Psychic Battering’ Among Reasons for Lawyer Depression"

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