Definitions of abnormality

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  • Describe and evaluate two definitions of abnormality
    • Statistical definition
      • Under this definition of abnormality, a person's trait, thinking or behavior is classified as abnormal if it is rare or statistically unusual.  With this definition it is necessary to be clear about how rare a trait or behavior needs to be before we class it as abnormal
        • For instance one may say that an individual who has an IQ below or above the average level of IQ in society is abnormal. However this definition obviously has limitations, it fails to recognize the desirability of the particular behavior.
      • Evaluation
        • This definition does not tell us the difference between desirable behaviour that is statistically infrequent and undesirable behaviour that is infrequent.
          • No one would argue that having an iq of over 103 makes someone abnormal but using the definition, they would be classed as abnormal.
        • A person may be one score above what is classed as abnormal according to this definition, e.g. an IQ of 71, and so be classed as normal but they still may need help.
        • Some behaviours that would be classed as within the normal range because so many people have them, such as anxiety, are seen as abnormal in a clinical sense.
        • However it does give use a definite cut-off point, and one which is objective, therefore taking away the subjectivity of some of the other definitions of abnormality.
    • Social norms definition
      • Abnormality can be defined as a deviation from social norms This means that we label people as abnormal if their behaviour is different from what we accept as the norms of society.
        • Some social norms are explicit, which means they are legal written laws. While other social norms are implicit and are unwritten, or unspoken rules in society. If people break these rules, then they are deviating away from social norms and therefore, could be labeled as abnormal.
      • Evaluation
        • The defintion of abnormality can lead to an abuse of a person's rights based on what society sees as normal.
        • It is also culturally biased, as what may be seen as unacceptable in one society may be seen as acceptable in another society.
        • Norms change over time so what is seen as abnormal in one society may be seen as normal in the next.
        • However, the definition does allow us to take several behaviours into account which altogether may make us uncomfortable, but which on their own would not be classed as abnormal.


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