The Pathoplastic Relationship Between Interpersonal Problems and Fear of Failure


concerning this article should be addressed to Aidan Wright, The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Psychology, 253a Moore Building, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail:


ABSTRACT This study advances the understanding of fear of failure (FF), a dispositional avoidance-oriented achievement motive, by employing interpersonal classification techniques to groups of individuals who fear failure in order to examine the pathoplastic relations between FF and interpersonal problems. Shame-based FF is thought to be related to the self-regulation strategies of appeasement and aggression, and these strategies are hypothesized to be associated with the interpersonal problems of Nonassertiveness and Vindictiveness, respectively. Using 2 independent samples (ns=60 and 38) reporting high FF, interpersonal profiles were examined for the groups in their entirety and for cluster solutions within the larger samples. Results demonstrated that individuals high in FF exhibited 1 of 2 prototypical interpersonal profiles associated with Domineering/Vindictive or Nonassertive/Exploitable problems that correspond with the hypothesized aggression and appeasement regulation strategies. Consistent with the concept of pathoplasticity, these differences were not better accounted for by demographic, affective, motivational, personality, or attachment style characteristics of the samples.