Trait perfectionism strengthens the negative effects of moral stressors occurring in veterinary practice

M. F. Crane*, J. K. Phillips, E. Karin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Moral challenges are a unique class of workplace stressor where behaviours violate one's personal moral beliefs regarding how things should be done or one's perceived obligations. Morally challenging stressors exist in many workplaces and at times can transform into marked emotional distress, referred to as moral distress. In this study we investigated the degree to which morally significant stressors are related to psychological distress and resilience in a sample of Australian veterinarians. Further, we explored the role of trait perfectionism in strengthening the relationship between exposure to morally significant stressors and psychological distress. Trait perfectionism is the tendency to have very high and rigid standards for the self and/or others and is often implicated in the experience of psychological distress. Methods: A cross-sectional online survey sampled 540 Australian-registered veterinarians (64.2% female), ranging in age from 23 to 74years. Results: Although morally significant stressors were related to increases in milder expressions of distress, they did not appear to be associated with more severe decrements in psychological wellbeing. Rather, it was the combination of these triggering stressor events and trait perfectionism that appeared to create the vulnerability to moral stressors. Conclusion: The findings suggest that trait perfectionism is an individual difference that enhances vulnerability to the risk of greater distress in response to morally challenging events in veterinary practice. The implications of these findings and directions for further research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-360
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Veterinary Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Moral challenges
  • Resilience
  • Stress
  • Trait perfectionism
  • Veterinarians


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