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Psychology for AS

Definitions of Abnormality

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1. Statistical Infrequency


Behaviour is NORMAL if it is FREQUENT!

Behaviour is ABNORMAL if it is RARE!

A bell curve would be used to show things such as abnormality, IQ, shoe size etc. The percentage of the population that are at either end of the bell curve would be considered abnormal as they are "rare".



+ This model helped to form basis for diagnosing mental retardation.

- Many behvaiours can be "rare", but also desirable and healthy. eg, high IQ.

- Norms change over time.

- There is no agreed definition of how much behaviour must deviate before it is considered abnormal.

- (CULTURAL ISSUE) Mental disorders are rare in some ethnic groups and not in others. This may be due to reluctance to seek help.

2. Deviation from Social Norms


Social norms are standards set by society that show what is expected.

Explicit rules (laws) and Implicit rules.

Violators of the norms are considered abnormal.

Behaviour is okay if society accepts it!



+ We learn what is expected at a cultural level. If behaviour drastically deviates from what is expected we are concerned and secure help.

+ The extreme effects of social norms impact upon our ideas of ab/normality in a historical context. eg, homosexuality.

- Norms change over time.

- Norms change from culture to culture.

- Norms within one culture can change within situations.

- (CULTURAL ISSUE) Definitions of abnormality vary between wider cultures and between sub-groups. In western cultures the white population's behaviour is considered the norm.

3. Deviation from Ideal Mental Health


Looks at the positives, not the negatives.

Six Criteria ;

1. Positive view of self

2. Personal growth and development

3. Autonomy/Self-actualisation (able to act independently, make own decisions and find satisfaction within themselves)

4. Accurate view of reality

5. Positive relationships

6. Environmental mastery (effectively meeting the demands of the situations and being sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances)

If any of these are deviated from, the person will become vulnerable to psychological problems or mental disorders.



+ "It is a refreshing approach in that it focuses on the positive aspects of life rather than negative ones..."

- Rigid criteria.

- It is difficult to have all 6 criteria.

- The majority of people would be considered abnormal and so it ignores the people who truly need help.

- (CULTURAL ISSUE) The criteria are culture bound. They are based on western ideas of self-fulfilment and the individual. Non-western ideas are group responsibility and group effort.

4. Failure to Function Adequately


Behaviour is abnormal if it is maladaptive.

Ability to live a 'normal' life is hindered.

Person is unable to experience the normal range of emotions.

Seven criteria ;

1. Personal distress (experiencing unpleasant emotional experiences to an excessive degree)

2. Maladaptiveness (behaviour that interferes with the ability to meet everyday responsibilities)

3. Irrationality (behaviour which has no rational basis and is unconnected to reality)

4. Unpredictability (behaviour which is impulsive and seemingly uncontrollable)

5. Unconventionality and statistical rarity

6. Observer discomfort

7. Violation os moral and ideal standards

Need more than one piece of criteria to be considered abnormal!



+ It recognises a person's subjective experience (what they have been through).

+ It encompasses statistical rarity and the violation of social norms.

- The criteria depends on subjective judgements.

- The criteria could be applied to people who choose to be eccentric.

- (CULTURAL ISSUE) The inability to cope with the demands of daily living could be the CAUSE rather than the OUTCOME of disorders.



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