Perfectionistic Concerns, Emotion Regulation, and Psychological Distress: Competing Predictors and Indirect Effects

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There is compelling research to suggest that individuals high in perfectionistic concerns are at risk for psychological distress because they fail to effectively regulate their emotions. From a theoretical perspective, there may be multiple forms of maladaptive emotion regulation operating in the context of perfectionistic concerns, but empirical studies have generally examined only one or two of these at a time. Our research tested a diverse set of emotion-regulation factors that predict distress while accounting for perfectionistic concerns, and it examined the indirect effects between perfectionistic concerns and distress via these emotion-regulation factors. College students (N = 270) completed multiple measures of perfectionistic concerns, distress, and emotion regulation via a web-based survey. Exploratory structural equation modeling (ESEM) suggested three emotion-regulation factors that we labeled regulation difficulties, emotional avoidance, and rumination. A latent-variable model indicated that perfectionistic concerns predicted distress, and a separate model revealed that regulation difficulties, emotional avoidance, and rumination predicted distress. In a combined model, only perfectionistic concerns and rumination significantly predicted distress; moreover, only the indirect effect through rumination was significant. Our findings affirm the potential role of rumination as a key aspect of emotion regulation in the study of perfectionistic concerns.


This article was originally published as Kahn, J. H., Woodrum, J. L., & Han, S. (2022). Perfectionistic concerns, emotion regulation, and psychological distress: Competing predictors and indirect effects. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 35(3), 677–693.