Perfectionism and academic difficulties in graduate students: Testing incremental prediction and gender moderation

Perfectionism involves impression management concerns, and yet perfectionistic-self presentation is often neglected when studying academic problems (e.g., communication anxiety). Research also focuses predominantly on undergraduate students, despite graduate degrees becoming increasingly common. This study tests incremental prediction of perfectionistic self-presentation on intrapersonal and interpersonal academic problems beyond trait perfectionism in graduate students. Participants (N =269) completed self-report questionnaires of trait perfectionism, perfectionistic self-presentation, and academic difficulties (academic stress, imposter syndrome, and communication anxiety). A gender-balanced sample (52.4% women) allowed tests of gender moderation, which are often neglected in perfectionism research. Socially prescribed perfectionism uniquely predicted some, but not all, aspects of academic difficulties, and non-display of imperfection incrementally predicted all academic problems beyond trait perfectionism. Other-oriented perfectionism and perfectionistic self-promotion were negatively related to certain academic difficulties. Women showed greater imposter syndrome and academic stress, but results did not support gender moderation. Results support the unique importance of perfectionistic self-presentation in predicting academic problems in graduate students and highlight the need for continued research in this area.