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459257

nal for the Education of the GiftedMiller et al.

JEGXXX10.1177/0162353212459257Jour

Original Article

Parenting Style,
Perfectionism, and
Creativity in HighAbility and HighAchieving Young Adults

Journal for the Education of the Gifted


XX(X) 122
The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
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DOI: 10.1177/0162353212459257
http://jeg.sagepub.com

Angie L. Miller1, Amber D. Lambert1,


and Kristie L. Speirs Neumeister2

Abstract
The current study explores the potential relationships among perceived parenting
style, perfectionism, and creativity in a high-ability and high-achieving young adult
population. Using data from 323 honors college students at a Midwestern university,
bivariate correlations suggested positive relationships between (a) permissive
parenting style and creativity and (b) authoritarian parenting style and socially
prescribed perfectionism. Furthermore, negative relationships were also found
between authoritarian parenting style and creativity. These relationships were further
investigated using a path model that included control variables for gender and
parent education level. Findings suggest statistically significant relationships between
creativity and gender, authoritarian parenting and socially prescribed perfectionism,
authoritarian parenting and creativity, and permissive parenting and creativity.
Keywords
creativity, high ability, high achieving, parenting style, perfectionism
The ability to think creatively, to produce novel and appropriate responses and outcomes in given situations (Brown, 1989; Plucker, Beghetto, & Dow, 2004), will be
paramount for individuals to succeed in a competitive, global environment. Although
creative-thinking skills are important for all individuals, they are particularly
important for high-ability individuals, as they are more likely to enter professions such
1

Indiana University, Bloomington, USA


Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA

Corresponding Author:
Angie L. Miller, Indiana University, 1900 E 10th St., Suite 419 Bloomington, IN 47406, USA
Email: anglmill@indiana.edu

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Journal for the Education of the Gifted XX(X)

as medicine, engineering, and technological fields that demand problem-solving skills


and innovation. To succeed in these professions, high-ability learners cannot rely on
mastery of content alone but need to hone their creative-thinking skills as well.
Acknowledgment of this realization leads parents and educators to then pose the following question: What factors influence creative-thinking skills in high-ability students? Gaining an understanding of this question will allow parents and educators to
adapt their styles to more effectively develop creative-thinking skills in high-ability
students. To determine potential influences on creativity within a high-ability and
high-achieving population, a review of previous research is first necessary.
Creativity has been extensively studied in educational research (Andiliou & Murphy,
2010; Dai, Swanson, & Cheng, 2011; Piirto, 2004). Yet, despite the broad accumulated
knowledge on the topic, more research is needed to understand what aspects of personality affect creative expression and how background experiences influence the development of creativity. It is also important to determine precisely what is meant by the term
creativity, as many researchers in the field are not even in complete agreement about the
exact nature of this construct (Davis, 2004). For the purpose of this study, a widely used
and basic description of the construct would be any behavior or outcome that is both
novel and appropriate (Brown, 1989; Plucker et al., 2004). In addition, in our discussions of creativity, we implicitly refer to what is known as little c creativity (Davis,
2004). This type of little c creativity is demonstrated through everyday problem solving
by relatively ordinary people, as opposed to Big C creativity, that is demonstrated by
individuals such as artists or scientists who are well known and distinguished in their
domain (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). As little c creativity can be investigated in larger
groups of individuals, rather than only with a few eminent people in a particular field,
it is the preferred conceptualization for the current study.
In addition to the little c/Big C distinction, within the field of creativity research,
there is also an ongoing debate over the manifestation of creativity. Some claim that
creativity is specific to individual domains such as music, fine arts, writing, or science
and that the characteristics and skills necessary for creativity in a certain domain do
not translate to other domains (Baer, 1994). However, others assert that creativity is a
more general trait or cognitive skill that can be expressed in a wide range of circumstances (Plucker, 1998). This debate is discrete from, yet also related to, the little c/Big
C issue, insofar as Big C is demonstrated within specific fields and would therefore
support a more domain-specific conceptualization of creativity. The converse idea that
domain generality can be connected with little c creativity, as a general cognitive skill
would be more apparent in everyday problem solving, also applies to the conceptualization of creativity used in the current study. Although it is true that some researchers
prefer to conceptualize little c creativity in conjunction with domain specificity (i.e.,
Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2004), for the purposes of the current study, a little
c/domain-general perspective will be applied.
Because a domain-general, little c creativity is applicable to a variety of individuals
and across many different domains (Davis, 2004), the measure of creativity should
also be consistent with this conceptualization. A variety of creativity measures exist,

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Miller et al.

and range from self-report measures (Gough, 1979) to divergent thinking assessments
(Torrance, 1998) to ratings of creative products (Amabile, 1982). Self-report measures
are methodologically the most efficient, and as they explicitly assess multiple aspects
of creativity are the most reflective of a little c, domain-general perspective. The
dimensions of creativity can be cognitive in nature, such as use of imagination or intellectual problem solving; behavioral, such as engaging in creative activities; or affective and emotional, such as desire for spontaneity and openness to ideas. One such
self-report measure, the Scale of Creative Attributes and Behaviors (SCAB; Kelly,
2004), defines these various dimensions of creativity as creative engagement, creative
cognitive style, spontaneity, tolerance, and fantasy.
Creativity research is often categorized into a focus on four different variables:
person, process, product, and pressthe 4 Ps (Davis, 2004). The person component
emphasizes the internal personality characteristics of creative individuals, the process
component looks at the internal processes that take place during creative expression,
the product component explores the characteristics of products considered to be creative, and the press component investigates the ways in which environment can influence creativity. It is crucial to note that the 4 Ps are not considered to be separate types
of creativity, but instead as potential lenses through which researchers can design,
explore, and interpret investigations of creativity. Viewing creativity from these potential lenses is consistent with a multidimensional understanding of creativity. Although
they are often presented as separate categories, it is nevertheless important to explore
how these components intermingle in the manifestation of creativity. For example, the
person component may affect the process, which in turn can affect the final product,
all of which can be influenced by the press of the situation. The current study attempted
to examine one potential connection among these components by investigating how
the press component of parenting style, along with the person component of perfectionism, can affect creativity.

Parenting Styles
The notion of different types of parenting styles has received a great deal of attention
in developmental psychology through the past four decades (Berk, 2009; Crain,
2000). Baumrind (1978) described different parenting styles, which vary according to
their degree of responsiveness and demandingness. An authoritative style exhibits
high levels of responsiveness and demandingness. Authoritative parents make reasonable demands, but are very accepting of their children as well. An authoritarian style
exhibits a high level of demandingness but a low level of responsiveness. Authoritarian
parents are very strict with their children and emphasize discipline over nurturing. A
permissive style exhibits a low level of demandingness but a high level of responsiveness. Permissive parents are very accepting but exhibit less control over their children.
Maccoby and Martin (1983) also described a fourth parenting style, indifferent, in
which parents show low levels of responsiveness and demandingness. Indifferent
parents have little interest or involvement in the childs life.

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These parenting styles may have an effect on creativity, although this effect can vary
by age, gender, and different cultural factors (Chao, 2001; Coolahan, McWayne,
Fantuzzo, & Grim, 2002; Snowden & Christian, 1999; Tennent & Berthelsen, 1997).
Harsh treatment, such as that found in psychically and emotionally abusive parentchild
relationships, along with excessive control and demands, can lead to low levels of creativity (Pandey, 2005). Research also suggests that authoritarian mothers are less likely
to provide home environments conducive to creativity, instead establishing restrictive
environments that inhibit growing independence; use physical means of discipline; and
expect children to not make mistakes (Tennent & Berthelsen, 1997). This negative relationship between parental control and creativity has also been demonstrated in laboratory settings (Gronick, Gurland, DeCourcey, & Jacob, 2002). Because authoritarian
parenting style is characterized by harsh treatment and high levels of control, it is important to further understand how various components of this and other parenting styles can
positively or negatively affect creative expression. Is it the low level of responsiveness,
characteristic of the authoritarian style, which negatively affects creativity? If so, should
indifferent parenting also be negatively related to creativity? Or is it the high level of
demandingness in the authoritarian style, also found with the authoritative style, which
contributes to the negative influence?
Results linking responsiveness to creativity have been found in gifted populations
as well. Snowden and Christian (1999) found that authoritative parenting was important for fostering creativity in young gifted children. In a study of adolescents, Dacey
(1989) also found that an interest in a childs behavior with few specific rules to govern it was largely present in the families of highly creative individuals. This type of
responsiveness to the childs behavior is characteristic of the permissive and the
authoritative parenting styles. Furthermore, Lim and Smith (2008) found that higher
levels of acceptance, related to authoritative and permissive styles, from parents are
associated with higher levels of creativity in children. Given the previous research on
the effect of parenting style for gifted and nongifted populations, it may be that responsiveness is the most important dimension for creative expression. Generally, the literature has indicated that parenting styles high in responsiveness (permissive and
authoritative) had positive relationships with creativity, whereas the authoritarian
style, which is low in responsiveness, was usually negatively related to creativity.

Perfectionism
In addition to parenting style, perfectionism is another construct that has been studied
within gifted populations. Although a debate exists over the precise nature and potential effects of perfectionism (Greenspon, 2000; Parker, 1997, 2002), some evidence
suggests that this characteristic is commonly associated with many high-ability and
high-achieving individuals (Parker & Adkins, 1995; Schuler, 2000). The construct of
perfectionism is widely accepted as multidimensional (Frost, Marten, Lahart, &
Rosenblate, 1990). Hewitt and Flett (1991) defined the dimensions based on the
source of the excessively high standards. Self-oriented perfectionists are those that

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Miller et al.

maintain unrealistically high standards for themselves, whereas other-oriented perfectionists have unrealistically high standards for other people. Finally, socially prescribed perfectionists perceive that others have unrealistically high expectations for
them. Although some researchers have argued that perfectionism has a healthy component (e.g., Owens & Slade, 2008; Silverman, 2009), Flett and Hewitt (2006) argued
that their research collectively shows that self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially
prescribed perfectionism are not healthy but rather associated with various maladaptive tendencies. These researchers assert that healthy perfectionism is sometimes
confused for conscientiousness, and perhaps this is what others are referring to when
they speak of the adaptive aspects of perfectionism.
When Joy and Hicks (2004) explored the potential relationship between perfectionism and creativity, they found that high degrees of perfectionism were negatively
related to creative performance. This negative relationship between creativity and perfectionism has also been found in gifted individuals (Gallucci, Middleton, & Kline,
2000). In addition, studies have found that perfectionism correlates with various factors such as stress, anxiety, and concern for mistakes (for a review of studies, see Flett
& Hewitt, 2002) that have been found to negatively correlate with creativity as well
(Curl, 2008; Zhang, 2009).
There is also evidence that demonstrates a connection between parenting style and
perfectionism. An extensive qualitative study suggested that the development of socially
prescribed perfectionism is related to authoritarian parenting (Speirs Neumeister, 2004).
Furthermore, Speirs Neumeister and Finch (2006) found an indirect relationship between
parenting style and perfectionism, reporting that authoritarian and indifferent parenting
styles predicted insecure attachment, which then predicted either self-oriented or socially
prescribed perfectionism. Research has also indicated that authoritarian styles are related
to maladaptive perfectionism, or particularly negative aspects of perfectionism such as
excessive doubts and extreme concern for making mistakes, in a college student population (Kawamura, Frost, & Harmatz, 2002). The emphasis on enforcing strict rules may
not only inhibit a freedom for creative expression but can also contribute to the development of strict self-imposed rules. The imposition of strict controls, either from the self or
from others, can have a negative effect on creative potential, as authoritarian parenting
and perfectionism may decrease creativity.

Demographic Characteristics
As with any psychological construct, certain demographic aspects of an individual can
have an effect on his or her personal and social experience, and the concepts of creativity,
perfectionism, and parenting style described above are no exception. One must keep in
mind that many factors can play a role in explaining individual differences. Therefore, it
should be noted that previous research shows gender-based differences in perceptions of
parenting style (McGillicuddy-De Lisi & De Lisi, 2007), the relationship between parenting style and perfectionism (Flett, Hewitt, & Singer, 1995), and creativity (Baer &
Kaufman, 2008; Rejskind, Rapagna, & Gold, 1992). Furthermore, research suggests that

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Journal for the Education of the Gifted XX(X)

parenting style may differ depending on socioeconomic status (SES) of families (Coolahan
et al., 2002), with parental education level having great influence on SES in our society.
Given this wealth of prior research, it is important to consider these differences in any
explanation of how parenting style, perfectionism, and creativity may be related.

The Current Study


Based on the results of previous research, the goal of the current study was to explore
the relationships among parenting style, perfectionism, and creativity in a population of
high-ability and high-achieving college students. It was hypothesized that those parenting styles high in responsiveness (permissive and authoritative) would be positively
related to overall creativity, whereas the parenting styles low in responsiveness (authoritarian and indifferent) would be negatively related to overall creativity. Given the
multidimensional conceptualization of creativity utilized with this study, more specifically it was predicted that authoritarian parenting style would be negatively related to
creative engagement. This hypothesis was derived from the idea that the low responsiveness of authoritarian parenting would contribute to a lack of encouragement for involvement in creative activities. It was also predicted that authoritarian parenting style would
be negatively related to the creative aspects of spontaneity and tolerance. These aspects
of creativity have affective and emotional components that may be less likely to thrive
in environments of high demands but low responsiveness associated with authoritarian
parenting. It was expected that authoritative and permissive parenting styles would be
positively related to creative engagement and fantasy, as the high responsiveness of
these styles is more likely to encourage creative thoughts and activities. Permissive
parenting style was also expected to be positively related to spontaneity and tolerance,
as the low demandingness coupled with high responsiveness of this style might boost
these emotional components. Finally, it was expected indifferent parenting style would
be most negatively related to creative engagement, as the low demands and responsiveness of this style would probably not provide children with either the encouragement or
resources to engage in many types of creative activities and behaviors.
Furthermore, it was expected that all three types of perfectionism (self-oriented,
other-oriented, and socially prescribed) would be negatively related to creativity but
positively related to authoritarian parenting style. More specifically, it was expected
that the more affective and emotional components of spontaneity and tolerance would
be more negatively related to self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism. As
these types of perfectionism have an internal target, individuals high in these types of
perfectionism may not allow themselves to engage in unplanned, unconventional, and
potentially unapproved behavior. In addition, it was expected that other-oriented perfectionism would be negatively related to tolerance, as expecting perfection from others
is inconsistent with showing a lenient attitude. Given the prior research suggesting that
perfectionism is linked to both parenting style and creativity, a final goal of the current
study was also to explore these three constructs together, investigating how parenting
style and perfectionism might relate to each other in their influence on creativity.

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Miller et al.

Method
Participants
The participants were 323 students in the honors college of a Midwestern university,
ranging in age from 18 to 23 years (M = 19.6, SD = 1.5). There were 85 males
(26.3%), 230 females (71.2%), and 8 students (2.5%) not reporting their gender. The
majority of students (89.8%) reported their ethnicity as Caucasian. Although there are
more females than males, and more Caucasian than minority students in the sample,
these respondent characteristics do not differ significantly when compared with the
demographics of the entire honors college population; therefore, the sample was
highly representative of the population and not considered biased in terms of gender
or ethnicity. Each class was represented, with freshmen (45.2%), sophomores
(18.3%), juniors (12.7%), and seniors (20.4%) included in the sample. A majority
(80%) of the students reported that at least one parent had completed a 4-year degree.
Admissions to the honors college is based on standardized test scores (SAT and ACT),
high school grade point average (GPA), recommendations, and writing samples.

Data Collection Procedures


Students were recruited through an email requesting their participation in a research
study about the psychological development of giftedness. All students in the honors
college received this email, which contained a link to the survey instrument. The
surveys were completed online during a single session. An incentive raffle for a free
mp3 player was used, and approximately 26% of all honors college students participated. Although this response rate is somewhat lower than desirable, comparisons
with population demographics (see above) ensure the representativeness of the sample
and generally relieve concern of a self-selection bias by key characteristics. Three
separate recruitment periods took place over the spring of 2008, fall of 2008, and
spring of 2009. The average completion time, after removing outliers of greater than
2 hr (most likely due to participants leaving the web browser open while leaving the
computer or working on other tasks) was 43 min. Students completing the survey
instrument more than once had their second set of responses deleted from the sample.

Materials
The following measures were included in a larger battery of 12 instruments, plus demographic items. The instruments covered topics including creativity, temperament,
attachment style, parenting, perfectionism, suicide ideation, social coping, ethnic identity, social dominance, achievement motivation, overexcitability, and personality traits;
not all instruments administered are included in the current study. Two versions were
administered; each version contained all of the instruments. The order of instruments
was counterbalanced between versions to account for potential survey fatigue, as all
participants completed all 12 instruments and demographic items.

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Table 1. Cronbachs Alphas for MPS and SCAB

MPS
Self-oriented perfectionism
Other-oriented perfectionism
Socially prescribed perfectionism
SCAB
Overall creativity
Creative engagement
Creative cognitive style
Spontaneity
Tolerance
Fantasy

Number of items

Cronbachs

15
15
15

.912
.824
.851

20
4
4
4
4
4

.845
.882
.816
.826
.790
.751

Note: MPS = Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale; SCAB = Scale of Creative Attributes and Behaviors.

Parenting Scales. The parenting style assessment was adapted from a study by Lamborn,
Mounts, Steinberg, and Dornbusch (1991), in which the instrument was designed as part of
a larger group of scales to retrospectively determine perceived authoritative, authoritarian,
permissive, and indifferent parenting styles for the mothers and fathers of participating
students. Participants read four descriptive paragraphs, one for each style, and indicated
whether the description was characteristic of their mother, father, or other caregiver. If the
description was not characteristic of any caregiver, they left it blank. For each style, respondents could score 0 (neither parent), 1 (one parent), 2 (both parents or one parent and one
other caregiver), or 3 (both parents and one other caregiver). This produced an ordinallevel variable for each parenting style, indicating the degree of exposure to that particular
style; the higher the score, the greater the degree of perceived exposure to the parenting
style. Previous research shows that the parenting style descriptions are able to determine
predicted patterns in outcomes of psychosocial development, school achievement, internalized distress, and problem behavior (Lamborn et al., 1991).
Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS). The MPS (Hewitt & Flett, 1991) measured perfectionism with a 45-item scale to assess self-oriented, other-oriented, and
socially prescribed perfectionism. Participants indicated their level of agreement with
statements about certain perceptions and behaviors (i.e., I strive to be the best at
everything I do and My family expects me to be perfect) using a 7-point Likerttype scale. Three subscale scores were calculated from the responses, with higher
scores indicating higher levels of perfectionism. Scores for each subscale can range
from 15 to 105. Cronbachs alphas for the current study are found in Table 1.
In the original validation studies on the MPS, Hewitt and Flett (1991) reported
adequate internal consistency (across 4 studies, ranged from .74 to .89 for subscales).
Factor analysis confirmed the three hypothesized types of perfectionism, providing
support for the construct validity. Additional analyses indicated a significant positive

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Miller et al.

relationship with observer ratings (r = .35-.61 for subscales), and the subscales were
able to differentiate between samples of students and clinical patients. Furthermore,
the authors obtained evidence for concurrent and divergent validity in the coadministration of the MPS with a variety of personality measures, performance standards, and
clinical assessments (Hewitt & Flett, 1991).
SCAB. The SCAB is a self-report creativity measure (Kelly, 2004) designed to
assess the dimensions of creative engagement, creative cognitive style, spontaneity,
tolerance, and fantasy. This 20-item scale instructs participants to indicate their level
of agreement with statements about typical attitudes, characteristics, and behaviors
(i.e., I enjoy creating new things, I am flexible in my thinking, and I often fantasize) using a 7-point Likert-type scale. Five subscale scores and one overall score can
be calculated from the responses, with higher scores indicating higher levels of creativity. The overall score can range from 20 to 140, whereas the subscale scores can
range from 4 to 28. Cronbachs alphas for the current study are found in Table 1.
In the original validation studies on the SCAB, Kelly (2004) reported adequate internal consistency ( = .75 total scale; = .69-.82 for subscales) and testretest reliability
after 1 month (r = .80 total scale; r = .70-.90 for subscales). Factor analysis confirmed
the five hypothesized components, providing support for the construct validity.
Additional validity studies indicated a significant positive relationship with the personality trait of Openness to Experience (r = .51 total scale), and this similarity to findings
using other creativity measures provides evidence of concurrent validity (Kelly, 2006).
Other demographics. Additional demographic information was also collected and
recoded for use as control variables. Gender was recoded as a dichotomous variable (0 =
male, 1 = female). Educational level of both parents was also asked of participants. This
information was then recoded into a dichotomous variable for status as a first-generation
college student (0 = not a first-generation student [at least one parent had completed a
4-year degree], 1 = first-generation student [neither parent had completed a 4-year
degree]).

Analytical Procedures
In the first stage of analyses, a series of bivariate correlations were completed to
explore the potential relationships between parenting style and creativity, parenting
style and perfectionism, and perfectionism and creativity. In the next stage, we created
a structural equation model using our hypothesized relationships suggested by past
literature and our findings from the first stage of this study. Creating this path model
allowed us to further investigate the relationship between variables while correcting
for potential inflation due to multiple correlations. Because AMOS, the statistical
package used for analysis of the path model, does not allow for missing values in the
computation of modification indices, only those cases without any missing data were
included in the model. Perhaps due to the high achievement and conscientiousness of
the students in this study, there were very few cases with missing data and thus only
a few cases were lost (path model n = 298) and these lost cases did not change the

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Table 2. Bivariate Correlations for Creativity and Parenting Style

Overall creativity
Creative engagement
Creative cognitive style
Spontaneity
Tolerance
Fantasy

Authoritarian

Authoritative

Permissive

.138*
.119*
.150**
.020
.121*
.053

.029
.060
.074
.013
.072
.102

.151**
.105
.109
.073
.065
.136*

*p < .05. **p < .01.

Table 3. Bivariate Correlations for Creativity and Perfectionism


Self-oriented
perfectionism

Other-oriented
perfectionism

Socially prescribed
perfectionism

.016
.078
.081
.100
.136*
.058

.074
.083
.092
.034
.080
.020

.048
.067
.080
.075
.165*
.045

Overall creativity
Creative engagement
Creative cognitive style
Spontaneity
Tolerance
Fantasy
*p < .05. **p < .01.

Table 4. Bivariate Correlations for Parenting Style and Perfectionism

Authoritarian
Authoritative
Permissive

Self-oriented
perfectionism

Other-oriented
perfectionism

Socially prescribed
perfectionism

.009
.082
.061

.055
.109
.048

.210**
.062
.013

*p < .05. **p < .01.

makeup of the characteristics of the sample. After determination of acceptable model


fit, the path coefficients were examined to review the possible relationships.

Results
Correlation Analyses
The correlation matrices for all three instruments (SCAB, MPS, and Parenting Scales)
and their subscales are presented in Tables 2, 3, and 4. Permissive parenting showed a
significant positive relationship with creativity, for the overall SCAB score (r = .151,

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Miller et al.

p = .008) and the fantasy subscale (r = .136, p = .016). Authoritarian parenting showed
a significant negative correlation with creativity, for the overall SCAB score (r = .138,
p = .015), the Creative Engagement subscale (r = .119, p = .035), the Creative
Cognitive Style subscale (r = .150, p = .008), and the Tolerance subscale (r = .121,
p = .033). Authoritarian parenting also showed a significant positive correlation with
socially prescribed perfectionism (r = .210, p < .001). Socially prescribed perfectionism showed a significant negative correlation with creativity for the SCAB subscale of
tolerance (r = .165, p = .004). In addition, self-oriented perfectionism showed a significant negative correlation for the SCAB subscale of tolerance (r = .136, p = .017).
Due to an extremely low variance, indifferent parenting style was not included in the
correlation analyses (82% of participants had a score of zero for this variable).
Although some were hypothesized, no other significant correlations were found for any
of the parenting style, perfectionism, or creativity scales.
Although many of these correlations were significant, it should be noted that the
strengths of the correlations were rather weak. In considering the R2 values, calculated
by squaring the correlation coefficient to create an estimate of the explained variance,
for many of these relationships, the correlation only explained anywhere from 1% to
4% of the variance. It may be that there is not a strong relationship between the different variables, or it may be that the relationship with parenting style is not reflected well
with a linear analysis. Although participants could theoretically score between 0 and 3
on the parenting style measures (with a higher score meaning greater exposure to the
style), there was a negative skew for authoritarian and permissive styles, with many
participants scoring a 0 and very few scoring a 2 or 3. Mathematically, this limits the
variability and reduces the likelihood of getting a strong correlation.

Path Model
To create the most parsimonious path model, only those variables with significant
bivariate correlations were selected for inclusion in the model. This combination of
bivariate correlations and path analyses has been utilized in previous research with
college student scores on multiple self-report instruments (e.g., Diseth & Kobbeltvedt,
2010). Therefore, authoritative parenting style, indifferent parenting style, self-oriented
perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism were not included in the model.
Furthermore, only the overall creativity score was included as an endogenous variable
in the model, rather than including each of the subscales, because the overall score was
the only creativity measure consistently related to parenting style. When using the
traditional measure of model fit (2), the model had a weak fit. Because the size of the
sample inflates the chi-square value, other model-fit indices were considered. The following cutoffs suggest a good fit when testing structural models: TuckerLewis Index
(TLI) and Comparative Fit Index (CFI) values greater than .95, root mean square error
of approximation (RMSEA) value less than .06, and PCLOSE should be greater than
.05 (Hu & Bentler, 1999). As shown in Table 5, these tests, even the more conservative
RMSEA and PCLOSE, all suggest that the model is a good fit for the data.

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Table 5. Model-Fit Results for Path Model


N

TLI

CFI

RMSEA

PCLOSE

298

.929

.917

.040

.999

Note: TLI = TuckerLewis Index; CFI = Comparative Fit Index; RMSEA = root mean square error of
approximation. Strong model fit is reflected by CFI and TLI greater than .95, RMSEA less than .06, and
PCLOSE greater than .05.

The outcome for the path model was overall creativity. Both gender (1 = female)
and parental education level (1 = first-generation college student) were exogenous
variables in the model. The two parenting styles (authoritarian and permissive) that the
correlation analyses showed were related to perfectionism and creativity were also
included in the model. Because socially prescribed perfectionism was the only type of
perfectionism that was correlated with overall creativity or parenting style, it was the
only perfectionism scale included in the model.
Although both indirect and direct effects were explored in the path model (see
Figure 1), only four direct relationships were statistically significant (p < .05 or lower).
Permissive parenting style was shown to have a statistically significant positive effect
on a students overall creativity (.162), whereas, in contrast, exposure to an authoritarian parenting style had a negative effect (.212). This negative effect was actually the
strongest influence on a students overall creativity. The path coefficient for authoritarian parenting style on socially prescribed perfectionism (.218) suggested a positive
relationship and the strongest one in the overall model. Finally, although there is not
much literature to support this finding, the negative path coefficient for gender on
overall creativity (.168) suggests that male students reported higher overall creativity. Possible explanations for this finding, as well as the others, are explored in more
detail in the discussion section.

Discussion
Several different sets of analyses were completed, each revealing further evidence
concerning the relationship between creativity, parenting style, and perfectionism in
high-ability and high-achieving young adults. The positive correlation between creativity (overall and fantasy subscale) and permissive parenting suggests that more
perceived exposure to a permissive style is related to higher levels of self-reported
creativity. This finding provides evidence for a potential strength of a permissive
parenting, at least among gifted young adults. The results of the path model also support this potential strength of permissive parenting, as this relationship remained
significant even when taking into account the influence of other variables. Although
most research provides evidence supporting authoritative parenting as being associated with positive outcomes, this study failed to find evidence for this. Recent
research does suggest that the positive outcomes of authoritative parenting may not

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Figure 1. Path model with statistically significant standardized path coefficients

13


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generalize to other cultures (Chao, 2001). It may be that the high degree of responsiveness found in permissive and authoritative parenting is what is most important for
nurturing creativity, but the high degree of demandingness is not as effective for this
particular population of high-ability and high-achieving young adults. There is also
the possibility that because it is virtually impossible to disentangle genetic and environmental influences, it may also be that more creative parents tend to be more permissive and are passing on their creative traits biologically to their children. This
would be an interesting question for future research to address.
The relationship between authoritarian parenting and creativity is more complex to
interpret. The negative correlation between authoritarian style and creativity suggests
that more perceived exposure to this style is related to lower levels of creativity, and
this relationship was also significant in the path model. This finding further supports
the potential weaknesses of this style, particularly with a gifted population (Dwairy,
2004). The positive correlation between authoritarian style and socially prescribed
perfectionism, with more exposure to authoritarian parenting also showing higher levels of perfectionism, replicates previous research (Speirs Neumeister, 2004; Speirs
Neumeister & Finch, 2006) and provides further evidence for the weaknesses of
authoritarian parenting. The results of the path model further elaborate on the relationship between these variables. Even when controlling for gender and first-generation
status, the significant relationships between authoritarian parenting style and socially
prescribed perfectionism, and authoritarian parenting style and creativity remained.
Perceived authoritarian parenting style appears to have detrimental consequences in
various areas for high-ability and high-achieving young adults, related to increases in
socially prescribed perfectionism and decreases in creativity.
It is noteworthy that permissive and authoritarian are the exact opposite styles when
considering dimensions of demandingness and responsiveness. Authoritarian parents
are high in demandingness and low in responsiveness, whereas permissive parents are
low in demandingness and high in responsiveness. These opposite styles had opposite
effects on creativity in the model, with permissive as a positive predictor and authoritarian as a negative predictor. It may also be that the combination of both dimensions is the
critical piece in understanding the effect of parenting style on creativity.
Further complicating the relationships between the constructs in the model is the
idea of conditional acceptance and the effect it can have on perfectionism. Conditional
acceptance by parents results in a childs thinking pattern of I am acceptable [to my
parents] as long as I can perform well [make good grades, win awards, etc.] and is a
pervasive theme in the literature concerning the clinical implications of perfectionism
(Greenspon, 2008). Judgments and critiques may be frequently voiced, and children
grow up believing they are never good enough (Greenspon, 2011). However, although
conditional acceptance plays a role in the development of perfectionism, it is not necessarily constrained to one particular parenting style, which may additionally obscure
patterns in the results.
Although previous literature has demonstrated a link between perfectionism and
creativity (Gallucci et al., 2000; Joy & Hicks, 2004), in neither the bivariate correlation

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Miller et al.

nor the path model was socially prescribed perfectionism significantly related to overall
creativity. This result may be due to the differences in the various facets of perfectionism in the instrument that was used in this study, or it may be that this finding is not
apparent in a high-ability and young adult population. Some highly creative gifted
young adults may not be perfectionists, or some may be creative despite their perfectionism. Another potential reason for a lack of relationship between perfectionism and
creativity in this study may be the conceptualization of creativity from a domaingeneral perspective. It could be that in a subpopulation within a specific domain, perfectionism might have greater explanatory power when it comes to domain-specific
creativity. Some researchers assert that perfectionism is a facet of the conscientiousness
trait (MacCann, Duckworth, & Roberts, 2009), and indeed some have found that conscientiousness is a predictor of self-oriented perfectionism (Stoeber, Otto, & Dalbert,
2009). Incorporating this research with the findings of a meta-analysis by Feist (1998)
who found that conscientiousness was related to scientific creativity, but not artistic
creativity, one can understand how a domain-general measure of creativity, such as the
one included in this study, might not fully capture the relationship. This conclusion is
further supported by the work of Kelly and Kneipp (2009), which linked scores on the
SCAB to artistic vocational interests, suggesting that this domain-general measure
might not be the most precise assessment of nonartistic domains.
The age of the sample is an additional piece of information that is important to
consider when interpreting the findings of this study. Although the parenting style
measure was written in the present tense, the participants were retrospectively responding to the instrument, given that they had approximately two decades of parenting
information to contemplate. They could have based responses on their current relationship with their parents or over the course of growing up. It may be that authoritative is related to the most positive outcomes growing up, as the literature suggests
(Baumrind, 1983; Roberts Gray & Steinberg, 1999), but is less important to college
students. Perhaps once they become young adults, a more permissive style is associated with more positive outcomes, particularly for high-ability and high-achieving
students who may want the support without the demands.
There were also some interesting findings based on the inclusion of the control
variables of gender and first-generation student status in the path model. Firstgeneration status was included to account for a potential effect on parenting style, as
previous research has suggested that parenting styles can differ depending on the SES
of the family (Coolahan et al., 2002). However, these paths were not significant in the
model. It may be due to the skewed distribution of the sample, as only 20% of the
students were first-generation college students. It may also be that these socioeconomic differences in parenting style are not found in families with high-ability or highachieving children, or that parenting styles were altered to accommodate the special
needs of these children. More research with high-ability and high-achieving populations is needed to further explore potential reasons for this finding.
Gender was another control variable that was included based on previous
research, but does not consistently reflect prior findings. Although empirical evidence (McGillicuddy-De Lisi & De Lisi, 2007) suggests that perceptions of parenting

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style can differ for males and females, the paths for gender and permissive and authoritarian parenting style were not significant in our model. Furthermore, the paths for gender and socially prescribed perfectionism were not significant in the model. Previous
research by Flett et al. (1995) found that authoritarian parenting style was related to
socially prescribed perfectionism in males, but not females. However, later research with
a sample of gifted college students (Speirs Neumeister, 2004) did not find evidence for
this gender difference. It may be that the distinctive experiences of high-ability and highachieving individuals, as compared with a more general sample of college students, cancel out the differences between males and females. Again, more research is needed on
the family experiences of high-ability and high-achieving students.
The model showed a significant path coefficient from gender to creativity, suggesting
that in our sample, males had higher levels of creativity than females. A significant difference in this direction was not expected, as a majority of research indicates no gender differences for creativity (Baer & Kaufman, 2008) or slightly favors females on measures of
verbal creativity (Rejskind et al., 1992). It may be that males and females vary in different
types or aspects of creativity, and some measures are more sensitive to these variations
than others. One study found a similar gender difference for flexibility and elaboration,
using a divergent thinking test to assess creativity (Ai, 1999), whereas another found differences in the ways that creative males and females (in a sample of engineers and musicians) chose to describe themselves on a self-report measure (Charyton & Snelbecker,
2007). Some research suggests that males self-report more positively on other characteristics (Simon & Nath, 2004); this may be true for creativity as well.
It could also be that gender differences emerge under certain environmental conditions, as Baer (1997) found that an expectation of evaluation is detrimental to females,
but not males, creative production. Perhaps the females in this study were more sensitive to the scientific nature of the research process and felt their responses would be
evaluated more severely. A final explanation for this finding could relate to this sample
itself. Previous research has found that the relationship between creativity and academic achievement is much stronger for males than females (Asha, 1980). Because
admission to the honors college is based primarily on academic achievement (standardized test scores, GPA, teacher recommendations), the males in the sample may
show higher levels of creativity, as compared with the females, who show greater
variation in creativity. More research is needed to explore gender differences in creativity specifically with high-ability and high-achieving young adult populations.

Limitations
Although there are several strengths of this study, some limitations should also be
considered. One limitation involves the online data collection. Although this type of
research has the advantages of increased sample size and ease of data collection, one
must rely completely on self-reported measures, which may not always be objective.
However, most studies looking at self-reports of students in higher education suggest
that self-reports and actual abilities are positively related (Anaya, 1999; Hayek,

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Miller et al.

Carini, ODay, & Kuh, 2002; Pike, 1995). One should also keep in mind that the parenting style measure was not only self-reported but retrospective, which could have
introduced further error into the precision of the instrument. Furthermore, the sample
was somewhat homogeneous in terms of age and ethnicity. Because admission to the
honors college was based on high achievement, only those students with high ability
who are also high achievers could be included in the study; therefore, there were no
underachievers in our sample. The pattern of results might differ dramatically for
high-ability underachievers, as parenting and perfectionism may influence achievement levels as well (Nugent, 2000; Rimm, 1996).
In addition to these limitations, there were relatively weak significant correlations
and path coefficients, which suggest that there are many other factors not measured in
this study having an influence on the perceived parenting style, perfectionism, and
creativity of the participants. Therefore, the results should be interpreted with caution.
Although complex correlational models such as path analyses can provide richer information than simple bivariate correlations, the research is still correlational and causality cannot be confirmed (Trafimow, 2006). Additional research with more representative
samples including high-ability underachievers that incorporate other measures of the
same constructs is needed to draw more definitive conclusions. Findings may not be
replicated on samples of young adults at different ability levels. In young adults who
show a broader range of abilities, the patterns found in this study may not be reproduced, or it could be that the explanatory power of parenting style increases.

Conclusion
The results of this study suggest that parenting styles can have an effect on creativity
for high-ability and high-achieving young adults, in particular authoritarian and permissive styles. However, these relationships are complicated by other factors, such as
gender and perfectionism, which can also influence creativity. More research is
needed on how parenting style, something one is exposed to since birth, affects the
individual as a young adult in positive and negative ways. Furthermore, potential
gender and cultural differences are important for consideration in the study of how
parenting style can influence development. As previous studies have shown, parenting
style can have a differential effect, depending on certain characteristics of the child
and the environmental context (Chao, 2001; McGillicuddy-De Lisi & De Lisi, 2007).
There are multiple subjective factors to be considered in emotional development,
particularly attachment, and the potential for individual variation requires more investigation of these constructs (Sroufe, 1996). Research is also needed to explore the
complexities of how the thought processes associated with perfectionism and creativity are moderated by characteristics such as gender as well as environmental and
cultural experiences.
As we leave the information age and enter the innovation age (Hill, 2007), the
importance of creativity for success beyond the classroom cannot be overstated. This
study contributes to the understanding of influences on creative thinking for

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Journal for the Education of the Gifted XX(X)

high-achieving, high-ability students. It also generates several additional questions


regarding influences on creativity that provide a springboard for future research. As
more research is completed in this area, we will hone our understanding of how best
to nurture the development of creativity in our high-ability students, thus benefiting
not only the students but also education and society as a whole.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.

Funding
The authors received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.

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Bios
Angie L. Miller has a research faculty position at the Center for Postsecondary Research at
Indiana University. She does research and data analysis for the National Survey of Student
Engagement (NSSE) and the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP). Her research
interests include creativity assessment, the utilization of creativity in educational settings, and
factors impacting gifted student engagement and achievement.
Amber D. Lambert is a member of the research analyst team at the Center for Postsecondary
Research at Indiana University, where she provides analytic support to several large survey
research projects, including the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project and the National Survey
of Student Engagement. Her research interests include gender issues in higher education, arts
education, engineering education, creativity, and quantitative reasoning.
Kristie L. Speirs Neumeister is an associate professor of educational psychology at Ball State
University, where she directs the licensure program and teaches graduate courses in gifted
education. She is currently the president elect of the Indiana Association for the Gifted and has
served on the board of the Council for Exceptional ChildrenThe Association for the Gifted.
Her research interests center on the social and emotional needs of gifted individuals.

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