What Causes Perfectionism? 4 Perfectionism Causes

Written by: Dr Joseph Kekulawala
Last updated date : March 31, 2022
Table of Contents

What Causes Perfectionism? 4 Perfectionism Causes
  1. Learning
  2. Social factors
  3. Perfectionism Causes: Unmet Needs
  4. Temperament and Genetics

In this article, we will explore the topic, what causes perfectionism. Firstly, there is no simple answer. According to mental health researchers and psychologists, there are common perfectionism factors. Perfectionism causes can be divided into four categories. They are learning, societal factors, a person’s needs are not being met and finally, genetics and temperament. Let’s explore each in a bit more depth.

Chapter 1:


Babies are not born as a perfectionist. Perfectionism is in some way shaped by learning. One of the leading perfectionism causes are the behaviours learnt during younger years. Let’s take an example. If a child is praised and rewarded for doing well in class, naturally, they will know that doing well or achieving is worth pursuing. Humans are social creatures. The applause and praise we get naturally feel good. Children learn that by completing, they can win recognition and approval from their parents and teachers. All the time, these beliefs are reinforced. When a child gets older, they may think that they can only win praise and approval by having high standards and achieving them.
When we think about what causes perfectionism, the opposite is also true. If a child is scolded or punished for making a mistake, they quickly learn that mistakes are bad. When children are raised in rigorous environments, they will go to great lengths to avoid making a mistake. They may soon associate making mistakes with being punished, ridiculed in front of their peers and angering adults they care about. Soon these children develop beliefs that nothing short of perfect is good enough.


Chapter 2:

Social Factors

As we have touched on, both harsh and perfectionistic parenting styles can lead to perfectionism. However, we can also learn to be perfectionists by copying or mimicking our parents. Babies and young children learn how to behave by copying their parents and older siblings.

If a child’s parents are overly critical or focused on achieving, this may play a role in a child’s development of perfectionism. Children mimic the behaviours of others around them. If the parents were high achievers, wanted to do well at their work, sport or other activities. The child may soon develop a belief that “achievements are more important than anything else “.

The influence of society goes beyond the family. Schools for high performing students, whether at sport or academics, often have a culture where achievement and success matter more than anything else. Therefore the children focus on achievement. So as to fit in at school and amongst their peers.


Chapter 3:

Perfectionism Causes: Unmet Needs

We all want to belong, be accepted by our friends and be loved by our family. If our needs are not met, for whatever reason, naturally, we can feel anxious. Maladaptive perfectionism may be triggered as a way of coping with this anxiety and distress. Let’s think about a young person whose needs for love and acceptance are not met. If a child is ignored, perhaps their parents are very busy, the child may adopt perfectionistic behaviour to get their parents approval and win their affection. Feeling unloved or not accepted can be a perfectionism Cause.


Chapter 4:

Temperament and Genetics

Finally, in understanding what causes perfectionism, let’s look at our genetics and temperament. Genetic’s are pretty much set when we are born. We have little control here. Temperament is similar. Temperament can be defined as a persons nature, particularly with regards to their behaviour and actions. One perfectionism cause can be someone’s temperament. Certain temperaments are related to perfectionism. These include wanting to keep others happy, responding to calls and rewards, and avoiding risk. Whilst we can’t change our genetics or our temperament, we can be more aware of temperament. These factors rarely act alone. When we think about what causes perfectionism, it is usually a combination of these factors. If you feel you are a perfectionist, about 20% of us are; consider how these factors relate to you. Which of these factors do you think played the most significant role in the development of your perfectionism? Here at Epsychonline, we have a six-week course on perfectionism. With over 70 lessons and over 20,000 words of educational material written by our team, we think this course provides excellent value for someone wanting to explore their perfectionism. Head over to our courses page to learn more.