Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences


The main objective of present research was to examine the nature of perfectionism in sport, by (a) investigating possible differences in the construct might exist between types of sport and levels of competition, (b) investigating its relationship with sport-specific psychological characteristics, and (c) exploring perceptions of perfectionism from the viewpoint of perfectionist athletes. The secondary objective was to identify sources of, and contributing factors towards, the development of perfectionism among athletes. To achieve its objectives, an initial step of validating the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS; Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990) with an athlete sample, and deriving an acceptable model to measure behavioural dimensions of the construct, was required.

Results showed that the original FMPS did not yield acceptable indices of fit, and that an alternative model (FMPS II) could improve fit indices without vast changes to the original structure. Multivariate analyses did not yield significant results with respect to differences between national and club/college athletes on dimensions of perfectionism. Further, canonical correlations analyses showed that meeting expectations of parents, previously conceptualised as a negative aspect of perfectionism because of its external reference criteria, was also associated with adaptive behaviours such as goal setting and mental preparation. In addition, differences were also apparent between athletes who demonstrated more or less positive and negative perfectionism, on psychological skills such as confidence, achievement motivation, freedom from worry, and peaking under pressure.

Finally, interviews with highly perfectionistic athletes provided insight into the nature of positive and negative aspects of perfectionist behaviour in sport. Specifically, athletes unanimously felt that their perfectionism has facilitated their progress and success in sport as well as overall development, despite some drawbacks such as relationships with others and negative emotions. Athletes also reported the significant contributions of coaches and teammates, their ranking, and the desire to achieve optimal efficiency in a stroke or technique, as having shaped their perfectionist tendencies.

Altogether, the research has provided additional insight into the nature of some behavioural dimensions of perfectionism that reflect both positive and negative aspects of the construct in sport. Other significant contributions to the body of literature include an apparent first in the factor analysis of the FMPS with athlete sample, and the qualitative investigation with criterion-referenced perfectionists.