Definitions of Abnormality

  • Created by: gamorton
  • Created on: 18-09-19 14:16
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  • Definitions of Abnormality
    • Deviation from Social Norms
      • Limitations
        • Social Norms Change over Time and Throughout Cultures
          • Were Legal and Now are Not
            • Drinking and Driving
            • Smoking in Public Places
          • Were Illegal and now are legal
            • Homosexuality
            • Having Children Outside of Wedlock
      • Strengths
        • Flexibility, e.g. It is deemed acceptable for a baby to drink out of a bottle with a teat whereas any older and that is unacceptable
        • Clarity, after some time living in one culture you will get to know what is acceptable in said culture
        • Helps society: Adhering to social norms means that society is ordered and predictable. This is argued to be advantageous
      • Definition: Behaviour does not fit within what is socially acceptable.
    • Failure to Function Adequately
      • Strengths
        • Consideration of how the individual feels: This definition is focused on the individual and how they are managing in everyday life from their perspective, so if someone feels as though they are struggling they will be deemed abnormal and get help.
        • Measurable: The GAF (see above) is a scale and allows for the extent of the failure to function to be measured. This means that the decision of whether a behaviour is abnormal or not can be made in a relatively objective way.
        • Behaviour is observable: Failure to function adequately can be seen by others around the individual because they may not get out of bed on a morning, or be able to hold a job down. This means that problems can be picked up by others and if the individual is incapable of making a decision or helping themselves others can intervene.
      • Limitations
        • Too much focus on the individual: It is argued that abnormal behaviours may not be a problem for the individual, but may be for others around them. For example, someone may be abnormally aggressive and not be worried by it, but their family and friends may feel it is excessive.
        • Abnormality does not always stop the person functioning: The focus on how someone is coping of this definition may mean that some abnormal behaviour is missed. People may appear fine to others as they fit into society and have jobs and homes, but they may have distorted thinking which is causing them inner distress that they hide.
        • Everyday life varies: The ability to cope with everyday life depends on what is seen as normal everyday life. This varies within and across cultures. Some body clocks mean that individuals do not rise until midday but they function well at other times. Culturally it is not unusual to have siestas, or move home regularly which may be seen as abnormal. This means that the definition is not clear.
      • Definition: When one cannot cope with day to day living
    • Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
      • Strengths
        • Focused: A strength is that this definition allows for an individual who is struggling to have targeted intervention if their behaviour is not ‘normal’. For example, their distorted thinking could be addressed to help their behaviour become normal, as if their thinking is biased then their behaviour will be too.
        • Positive: This definition focuses on what is helpful and desirable for the individual, rather than the other way round
        • Achievement of goals: This idea allows for clear goals to be set and focused upon to achieve ideal mental health, and, in Jahoda’s opinion, to achieve normality.
      • Limitations
        • Feasibility: The criteria outlined by Jahoda makes ideal mental health (normality) practically impossible to achieve. This means that the majority of the population, using this definition, would be abnormal.
        • Ethnocentrism: The criteria of autonomy makes the collectivist cultures, where the greater good and helping / relying on others is encouraged, seem abnormal. As most western cultures are individualist the criteria outlined by Jahoda seem a reasonable fit, but non-western cultures cannot relate to the criteria she outlines. This means that the definition is not global.
        • Subjectivity: The criteria that Jahoda stipulates are vague and are therefore very difficult to measure. This makes the decision as to whether someone fulfils the criteria difficult to make.
      • The idea is that there are various theoretical descriptions of ‘normality’ and if someone does not fit within this theoretical idea of normality their behaviour is abnormal.


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