Relationships among perfectionistic standards and physical and mental health outcomes: Moderating effects of gender and work-family conflict

Date of Completion

January 2006


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Clinical




Perfectionism and work-family conflict have both been shown to be sources of stress that lead to poor mental and physical health. Recent research has found that men and women react differently to work-family conflict. This study extends the research on perfectionism and work-family conflict by evaluating how the relationship between perfectionism and mental and physical health outcomes is moderated by gender and by the level of work-family conflict experienced by working men and women. The study hypothesized that women who are perfectionistic at work and experiencing high levels of work-family conflict will have the worst mental and physical health outcomes. Voluntary participants (99 women; 77 men) at various places of work and social activities filled out a demographic questionnaire, and measures of perfectionism, work-family conflict, and physical and mental health. Regression analyses revealed that perfectionism predicted poorer mental health for men and women, but did not predict poorer physical health. The significant 3-way interaction between perfectionism, gender and work-family stress reveals a significantly different pattern between men and women. For women higher perfectionism predicted greater symptomatology, regardless of whether family stress was high or low. Men who were in contexts of low family stress showed the same pattern, whereas high family stress was associated with greater symptomatology, regardless of level of perfectionism. These results appear to indicate that women cope with work-family conflict better than men as long as they are not perfectionistic. Perfectionistic men and women experiencing high levels of work-family conflict had similar levels of emotional symptomatology; thus the hypothesis that women under these conditions would have greater symptomatology was not met. The predictive value of specific types of work-family conflict (time-based, strain-based and behavior-based) and the utility of specific outcome measures (depression, anxiety and somatization) were also evaluated. Time-based work-family conflict, which predicted greater depression, was the major component of the relationship between work-family stress and emotional symptomatology. Strain-based and behavior-based work-family conflict predicted greater somatization. ^