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What are the three definitions of abnormality?

1.    Deviation from social norms

2.    Failure to Function Adequately

3.    Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

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What is meant by Deviation from Social Norms?

Norms are unwritten rules created by society to guide behaviour. Breaking these rules might be considered abnormal. 

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Name the three limitations of this definition. Giv

  1. Social and cultural norms change over time so what is considered abnormal i.e. Homosexuality is now acceptable but in the 1970s it was a ‘mental disorder’.
  2. Social norms must be considered in context e.g. Judges wear wigs, and are ‘normal’ but if they wore one out of context they may be considered abnormal.
  3. Who decides the norms? Our western norms cannot easily be applied elsewhere in the world i.e. talking to the spirit world is not ‘normal’ here but maybe in another culture. 
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What is meant by Failure to Function Adequately?

Sometimes, people engage in behaviours that are somehow ‘not good for them.’ Relationships and day-to-day living may be hard e.g. Maladaptive behaviour such as agoraphobia means that a person cannot leave their own house due to fear. 

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Name the scale used to measure this.

The Global Assessment Functioning (GAF) Scale. 

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Name the Study that supports this definition.

Rosenhan and Seligman’s Seven Features of Abnormality. (1989) 

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Name the three limitations of this definition. Giv

  1. Whether or not someone is failing to function can be a subjective judgement.
  2. Some behaviours may not be maladaptive to the person e.g. a happy murderer is someone who is abnormal but not necessarily maladaptive.
  3. What is adequate in one culture may not be in another i.e. public mourning can be seen in some cultures but might be seen as abnormal in cultures where emotions are controlled. 
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What is meant by Deviation from Ideal Mental Healt

This definition focuses on what makes us mentally healthy. If we can recognise then whatever fails these criteria is necessarily abnormal.

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Name the Study for this definition.

Jahoda (1958) suggested six criteria for ‘normality’.

  1. Positive view of self
  2. Actualisation
  3. Autonomy
  4. Accurate view of reality
  5. Environmental adaptability
  6. Resistance to stress 
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Name the three limitations of this definition. Giv

  1. Very few people satisfy all 6 criteria.
  2. The criteria are open to interpretation e.g. what is real for one, is different for another. Reality for a soldier is different from that of an accountant.
  3. What is ideal in one culture may not be in another i.e. the criteria emphasise personal fulfilment, a value not always shared by non-Western cultures. 
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What does the biological approach suggest?

The biological approach assumes that behavioural abnormalities are caused by faulty functioning. This approach suggests that abnormal behaviour can be traced back to biological factors. It is assumed that disorders have a physical cause.

If the problem cannot be identified= functional disorder

If the problem can be identified= organic disorder

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What are the four main physical causes of mental d

1.    Infection-

This is the idea that bacteria and viruses cause mental illness. For example, a virus can cause brain damage and an example is Clive Wearing, who suffered from an infection which infected and damaged his brain. Another example is Brown (1996) who found a link between schizophrenia and influenza. It is claimed that women who have influenza during pregnancy have a greater risk of having children who later develop schizophrenia.

2.  Brain Damage-

Some psychological problems result directly from damage to the brain. Common types of brain damage are those caused by injury, tumours and strokes. Behavioural changes can occur and symptoms depend on which part of the brain is damaged.

3.    Biochemistry-

The brain has a number of important chemicals, called neurotransmitters. It has been suggested that an excess or deficiency of these can cause a mental illness. i.e. schizophrenia is thought to be caused by an excess of a neurotransmitter, dopamine. High serotonin levels can cause depression.

4.    Genes-

Genes are inherited from our parents. Genes code for brain chemicals and so they have a strong influence over our behaviour. Defects of genes can be passed on to children causing mental illnesses. 

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