Caught in a bad romance: Perfectionism, conflict, and depression in romantic relationships. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • According to the social disconnection model, perfectionistic concerns (i.e., harsh self-scrutiny, extreme concern over mistakes and others' evaluations, and excessive reactions to perceived failures) confer vulnerability to depressive symptoms indirectly through interpersonal problems. This study tested the social disconnection model in 226 heterosexual romantic dyads using a mixed longitudinal and experience sampling design. Perfectionistic concerns were measured using three partner-specific self-report questionnaires. Conflict was measured as a dyadic variable, incorporating reports from both partners. Depressive symptoms were measured using a self-report questionnaire. Perfectionistic concerns and depressive symptoms were measured at Day 1 and Day 28. Aggregated dyadic conflict was measured with daily online questionnaires from Days 2 to 15. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. There were four primary findings: (a) Dyadic conflict mediated the link between perfectionistic concerns and depressive symptoms, even when controlling for baseline depressive symptoms; (b) depressive symptoms were both an antecedent and a consequence of dyadic conflict; (c) perfectionistic concerns incrementally predicted dyadic conflict and depressive symptoms beyond neuroticism (i.e., a tendency to experience negative emotions) and other-oriented perfectionism (i.e., rigidly demanding perfection from one's partner); and (d) the relationships among variables did not differ based on gender. As the most rigorous test of the social disconnection model to date, this study provides strong support for this emerging model. Results also clarify the characterological and the interpersonal context within which depressive symptoms are likely to occur.


  • Mackinnon, Sean P
  • Sherry, Simon B
  • Antony, Martin
  • Stewart, Sherry H
  • Sherry, Dayna L
  • Hartling, Nikola

publication date

  • April 2012