Self-oriented Perfectionism and Socially Prescribed Perfectionism Add Incrementally to the Prediction of Suicide Ideation Beyond Hopelessness: A Meta-Analysis of 15 Studies

  • Martin M. Smith
  • Vanja Vidovic
  • Simon B. Sherry
  • Donald H. Saklofske


Theoretical accounts suggest perfectionists are prone to suicide ideation, and over 25 years of research has tested these accounts. First were review research demonstrating perfectionists think, relate, perceive, and behave in ways that engender suicide ideation, and use Ernest Hemingway’s suicide as a case example. Next, we scrutinize evidence suggesting that, although the incremental validity of socially prescribed perfectionism (perceiving others as demanding perfection) beyond hopelessness is clear, the explanatory power of self-oriented perfectionism (demanding perfection of the self), and other-oriented perfectionism (demanding perfection from others) beyond hopelessness is unclear. Subsequently, we conducted a meta-analysis testing the extent to which self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism predict suicide ideation beyond hopelessness. Findings derived from 15 studies, with 20 samples involving 2089 participants, revealed that, after controlling for hopelessness, self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism, but not other-oriented perfectionism, displayed small positive associations with suicide ideation. Findings dovetail with long-standing theoretical accounts suggesting both self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism play an important role in suicide ideation. Findings also indicate self-oriented perfectionism’s and socially prescribed perfectionism’s relationships with suicide ideation are not merely statistical artefacts stemming from shared variance with hopelessness. Taken together, findings underscore the importance of developing ways of intervening when suicidal people feel they must meet the perfectionistic expectations of themselves and others.


Hemingway Hopelessness Meta-analysis Perfectionism Suicide 


Note: Studies marked with an asterisk were included in the present meta-analysis

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin M. Smith
    • 1
  • Vanja Vidovic
    • 2
  • Simon B. Sherry
    • 2
  • Donald H. Saklofske
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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