The relationship of birth order to perfectionism

Laura Fizel, Pace University


In 2003, Ashby, LoCiero and Kenny designed a study to investigate the relationship between perfectionism and psychological birth order. The current study is primarily a replication of the Ashby et al. study that examines the four birth order positions of first, middle, youngest, and only in relation to three perfectionism levels (i.e., adaptive, maladaptive and nonperfectionism). The research is based on Alfred Adler's theory of Individual Psychology. For instance, birth order is a practical application of Individual Psychology and striving for perfection is central to the theory of Individual Psychology. Additionally, Adler contends that the family constellation (e.g., birth order, siblings genders, sibling spacing) influences individuals' perceived position within the family and ultimately individuals' personality characteristics. Therefore, this study explores the family constellation components of sibling gender and sibling spacing and also considers the influence of ethnicity regarding the relationship of birth order and perfectionism. A sample of 279 undergraduate students completed the Psychological Birth Order Inventory (PBOI) and the Almost Perfect Scale-Revised (APS-R) in addition to a Family Environment Questionnaire used to collect pertinent demographic information. The results of this study support the Ashby et al. findings, suggesting that perfectionism significantly differs by psychological birth order positions. Specifically, Pearson r correlation results indicate a positive correlation of first birth order position with adaptive perfectionism. Additionally, birth order positions of middle and only child show positive correlation with maladaptive perfectionism. However these results were not consistent when ethnicity (i.e., Caucasian, Asian/Island Pacific, African American, Hispanic, Other) was considered. For example, while correlation results for Caucasian, Asian/Island Pacific, Hispanic, and Other ethnic groups showed positive relationship between birth order position of first and adaptive perfectionism, the African American ethnic group results show a non-significant correlation between these two variables. The correlation between birth order position of middle and maladaptive perfectionism was positive for the Caucasian, Hispanic, and Other ethnic groups. A positive relationship between the birth order position of only and maladaptive perfectionism was indicated solely for the Caucasian ethnic group. The family constellation components of sibling gender and sibling spacing, as assessed and analyzed by one-way ANOVAS in this study, were unsubstantiated in addressing the relationship of birth order and perfectionism.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Fizel, Laura, "The relationship of birth order to perfectionism" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3314711.



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