The brain scan study found that the perfectionists had smaller volumes of brain structure called the anterior cingulate cortex – an anatomical property in the brain previously associated with OCD in adults.
They were also twice as likely as others to develop OCD when they reach their teenage years.
"Self-control and the pursuit of perfection are often considered by parents and society to be good, because they can eliminate mistakes, but redact excessive self-control and perfectionism," said lead author Kirsten E. Gilbert, an instructor in child psychiatry at the Washington University in St. Louis, USA.
"In adolescents and adults, these characteristics are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder and other disorders, such as anorexia and social anxiety, and we have now linked this to OCD risk in children," Gilbert said in the publication JAMA Psychiatry.
OCD is a chronic mental health disorder that often involves uncontrollable, recurring thoughts or obsessions and behaviors that a person wants to repeat over and over again ̵
For the study, the team photographed 292 children aged 4 and 5 years and gave them a blank sheet of paper and a green marker to draw a perfect green circle.
After a child showed the circle to the researcher, he or she gave negative feedback by calling the circle "too small" or "too shallow" and then telling the child to try again.
"Some kids were very self-critical," Gilbert said. "The researcher pointed out mistakes, but the child was also critical of the effort, and this excessive perfectionism was the strongest predictor of OCD later."
Most OCD treatments involve medication and psychotherapy. If left untreated, the condition can be chronic and severe, the researchers said.