Approaches to Abnormality

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  • Approaches to Abnormality
    • The Psychodynamic Approach
      • Psychological Cause
        • It assumes that abnormality has a psychological cause and abnormal behaviours are symptoms of unresolved conflicts and traumas, often from early childhood that have been repressed so that we do not remember them but they affect our behaviour without our realising it
      • Conflict in the Psyche
        • Conflict between the three parts of the psyche causes anxiety
          • The three parts are the ID, the Ego and the superego
            • The Id ids present at birth and consists of basic drives and desires, the ego, which develops later and tries to control the Id and the Superego which includes the conscience
              • The Id and Superego are in conflict and the ego tries to control them. If the conflict causes severe anxiety, an anxiety disorder may develop without the person knowing why
      • Importance of Early Experiences
        • Many mental illnesses stem from traumas in childhood. In childhood, the ego is not developed enough to deal with traumas so they may be repressed
          • For example, a child who experiences the death of a parent in childhood may repress their feelings about it. Other losses that the person experiences later in life may re-awaken these feelings and lead to depression
    • The Behavioural Approach
      • Classical Conditioning
        • The person learns to associate an object or event with an emotional or unconscious stimulus
          • For example, Watson and Rayner caused little Albert to have a phobia of rats
            • Each time they gave Little Albert a white rat which he liked to play with they made a loud noise which he didn't like. The loud noise made him cry
              • After they had done this a number of times, he cried whenever he saw a rat, even if there was no loud noise. Therefore, he gained a phobia of rats
      • Operant Conditioning
        • This assumes that if behaviour is reinforced (rewarded), it is more likely to be repeated
          • For example, if someone cries a great deal and withdraws from social activities their friends and family may show signs of concern.
            • This could be a form of attention which acts as reinforcement, making the depressive symptoms more likely to develop into depression
      • Social Learning Theory
        • This assumes that abnormal behaviour is learned through observing a role model, such as a friend or parent behaving abnormally and then imitating their behaviour
          • For example, a child who has a parent with a phobia of spiders may learn that fear through observation
            • If they see their role model being positively reinforced for the observed behaviour e.g. people showing sympathy for the behaviour, then they are more likely to imitate it
              • This has also been shown in animals. For example, Mineka found that monkeys might develop a phobia of snakes if they watched another monkey show fear of snakes. It is reasonable to suppose the same process would apply to humans
      • Evaluation
        • The model focuses attention on observable behaviour and therefore may fail to deal with underlying, deeper psychological problems
        • Many people have criticised this model for a narrow and deterministic view that reduces complex behaviour to simple, learned responsese
        • The model makes claims for greater scientific validity compared to the psychodynamic model as there are many experiments to support the model
        • The behavioural approach is oversimplified and ignores biological and cognitive factors
    • The Cognitive Approach
      • Assumption 1
        • Behaviour is primarily affected by a person's thoughts. If an individual perceives, anticipates and evaluates events in an abnormal way, then their behaviour will be abnormal
          • For example, depression will result from abnormal, negative thinking
            • The A-B-C of thinking
              • A = Activating Event e.g. Waking up in the morning
                • B = Beliefs e.g. 'I can't cope'
                  • C = Consequences e.g. Staying in bed
                    • The negative thoughts and feelings are the target of cognitive therapy
                      • Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings, unpleasant physical symptoms ect.
      • Assumption 2
        • There are a number of different forms of faulty thinking
          • These include cognitive errors and the cognitive triad - negative views about oneself, the world and the future
            • According to Beck, this negative outlook would have originated in childhood, perhaps due to bereavement, overly critical parents or teachers ect.
              • E.g. a depressed person has developed a negative set of schema upon which their expectations about life are based. They are caused by cognitive biases e.g. Overgeneralisation, Minimisation of successes and Magnification of failures
      • Assumption 3
        • This model sees the individual as being in control of their own thoughts. People have free will and can change
          • This is in contrast to all of the other approaches which are all deterministic
      • Assumption 4
        • Treatment of depression can be achieved by changing abnormal, negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive, healthy one. The change in thoughts will then lead to a change in behaviour
      • Evaluation
        • The model has high face validity i.e it seems reasonable to suggest that the way people think about and interpret events will affect the way they think and behave
        • The cognitive approach ignored biological factors that might be involved in abnormal behaviour
        • It is not clear if irrational thoughts are the cause of the abnormal behaviour or just the result of the disorder. It does not explain where the negative thoughts came from in the first place
    • The Biological Approach
      • Genetic Inheritance
        • Genes contain the material inherited from parents. They consist of DNA and are found on chromosomes in cell nuclei
          • Faulty genes may cause abnormality. In most cases, people do not inherit a disorder,but a predisposition or vulnerability to the disorder. For example, research suggests for a genetic basis for anorexia nervosa and for many mental illnesses
            • Holland et al investigated whether there was a genetic link for anorexia nervosa
              • They compared monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins where one of each pair had anorexia nervosa.
                • MZ twins are 100% identical, whereas DZ twins only have 50% in common, so if there is a genetic basis to anorexia, a higher percentage of MZ twins than DZ twins should both have the disorder
                  • It was found that the concordance rate for MZ twins was 56% whereas for DZ twins it was 7%. This supports the view that anorexia is partly genetic, but it cannot be entirely genetic or the concordance rate would be 100%
      • The Physiological Cause
        • The approach assumes that abnormality is due to an underlying physical abnormality or disease in the brain
          • For instance, psychiatrists diagnose mental illnesses by comparing symptoms to the symptoms listed on an official classification system for diseases
      • Faulty Biochemistry
        • Chemical imbalances in the brain and body may be involved in certain mental illnesses
          • For example, it has been found that schizophrenic patients have excessive amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine in their brains, whilst people with depression may be short of the neurotransmitter seratonin
      • Evaluation
        • Although it is very very successful in explaining some disorders e.g. Huntingdon's disease, it does not easily explain all disorders e.g. phobias
        • The approach tends to ignore cultural and psychological factors that might be involved in abnormal behaviour
        • The approach could be considered more humane than the other approaches as it removes the blame from the person suffering from the mental abnormality

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