Participants sought for teen and parent study on perfectionism

A new Brock University study that aims to learn more about youth perfectionism is calling on teens and their parents to share their experiences.

The first of its kind in Canada, the study will give researchers in the Departments of Child and Youth Studies (CHYS) and Psychology a chance to place “a missing piece of the puzzle” when it comes to the complexities of perfectionism in young people, says Associate Professor Danielle Sirianni Molnar, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Adjustment and Well-being in Children and Youth.

“Perfectionism doesn’t just affect the person experiencing it,” she says. “It affects others, and others greatly influence the manifestation and experience of perfectionism, so we’re asking what that looks like and how it affects the dynamic of the parent-child relationship — from both sides.”

With Professor Dawn Zinga in CHYS and Assistant Professor Sabrina Thai in the Department of Psychology, Sirianni Molnar is seeking participants for the study, which will bring in parent observation to complement what young people report themselves about their experiences.

To participate, an adolescent and one parent will complete three surveys over the course of 12 months, responding to questions about personality, relationships, emotions and perfectionism. Each online survey will take 45 to 75 minutes.

Every time they complete a survey, participants will also receive additional prompts twice daily for one week to answer further questions in real time.

Participants receive Amazon gift cards for each portion of the study they complete.

Sirianni Molnar says that centring the voices of young people in the team’s research has already led to some surprising findings. For example, previous participants recently shared that they experience a harsh internal voice demanding that they achieve more — and that they maintain a cheerful exterior so as not to give away the fact that they’re struggling.

“A lot of times educators and parents think that by complimenting performance and giving a lot of praise, they can ease the pressure on a young person with perfectionism,” she says. “Hearing from young people, we have learned that it actually puts more pressure on them because they think expectations have gone up and they have to raise the bar even higher for themselves or else risk letting others down.”

Sirianni Molnar says that by allowing young people to describe their experiences of perfectionism, while also listening to close family members describe what they see, the researchers hope to “determine the kind of intervention, prevention or communication with young people who are struggling with perfectionism” that will be most effective.

Participants in the new study must meet the following criteria:

  • Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 years must participate with one parent.
  • All participants must currently reside in Ontario.
  • Each participant must have a personal email address.
  • Each participant must have a smartphone that can receive SMS messages.

Anyone interested in taking part can contact the Developmental Processes in Health and Well-being Lab by email at

“Perfectionist tendencies take hold in early adolescence and mid adolescence, and numbers are increasing among kids, especially since the start of the pandemic,” says Sirianni Molnar. “We want to see what’s going on in the adolescent years so that when we go into the schools to talk to educators, parents and young people, we have a much better understanding of how they experience perfectionism and what it means to them.”

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