Definitions of abnormality

the four definitions of abnormality with their limitations

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 30-12-12 15:19
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  • Definitions of stress
    • statistical infrequency
      • behavior is abnormal because it is statistically rare
      • behavior is normally distributed and it is argued that people are two standard deviations away from the mean
        • only 2.145% of the population is abnormal
      • limitations
        • Doesn't take desirability of behaviour
          • eg genius and low anxiety are wanted but statistically infrequent
          • other behaviours such as depression are statistically frequent although unwanted
        • inaccuracy of statistical data
          • all known cases of abnormality need to be reported but not true
            • gender bias as women are much more likely to report their problems (such as anxiety) more than males.
    • Deviation from social norms
      • society has rules about acceptable behaviours, values and beliefs.
        • abnormality arises when someone deviates from these ideas
          • for example talking to oneself while walking down the street
      • limitations
        • ideas change over time
          • it used to be frowned upon for a single woman to have a child and were locked up if they did
          • homosexuality was thought to be a mental illness until 1973
        • cultural relativism
          • standards vary from culture to culture and ones society can not be used to define another
            • for example Afro-Caribbeans believe hearing voices is a gift but in other cultures it is signs of schizophrenia
        • social control
          • Japan use abnormality as social control to ensure a strong work ethic
          • Szasz argues that abnormality is a socially constructed concept that allows people who are unusual to be labelled and thus treated differently from the others- often confined or prosecuted
            • used in the 19th century against women who wanted to spend inheritance money on themselves instead of relatives, so the relatives could get the money
    • failure to function adequately
      • behaviours that prevent people from coping with day to day life, such as; working, forming relationships and caring for oneself
        • eg anorexics can't care for themselves as they endanger themselves into starving to death
        • eg OCD people often can't leave the house due to fear of contamination and therefore cant work or form relationships
      • limitations
        • involves making subjective judgements about others as to what constitutes failure to function adequately
        • many "normal" people fail to cope with demands of life at certain times eg after berevement
    • Deviation from ideal mental health
      • Jahoda says to have ideal mental health you need .....
        • positive attitude towards oneself
        • the opportunity to self-actualise (achieve ones potential)
        • ability to resist stress
        • personal autonomy (not being too dependent on others)
        • the ability to adapt to ones environment
        • an accurate perception of reality
      • limitations
        • cultural relativism
          • in individualistic countries personal autonomy is desired but in collectivist cultures (China) self autonomy is thought to be unhealthy
        • accurate perception of reality is not common
          • Taylor suggested hat depressed people have a more accurate perception of reality as normal people create positive illusions to protect themselves
        • standards are so high almost everyone would be abnormal by this definition
          • eg few people self actualise
          • eg few people are able to resist stress


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