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  • Created by: hibawot
  • Created on: 12-10-14 14:43

Definition: Failure to Function Adequately

  • People who cannot cope with the demands of every day life, such as getting up, getting dressed and being able to look after themselves
  • The key issue with this is that the abnormal behavior interferes with day-to-day living
  • A common example: severe depression [which can lead to a lack of interest, meaning that the depressed person may fail even to get up in the morning, let alone hold down a job]
  • Rosenhan & Seligman: suggested that failing to function adequately can relate to possessing characteristics such as unpredictability and experiencing high levels of personal distress which may lead to abnormal behavior
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FFA Limitations

  • Failure to function adequately may not be the outcome of a psychological disorder. It may be that the inability to cope with the demands of daily living is the cause rather than the outcome. Stress, financial difficulties, prejudice, discrimination and language barriers may make certain behaviors seem as though they're not functioning adequately when that might not be the case.
  • Some behavior that appears dysfunctional and abnormal may actually be adaptive (functional) for the individual. On occasion the behavior that appears abnormal makes sense for those with disorders such as eating disorders or depression. The abnormal behavior may lead to welcome extra attention or act as a strategy to not adress problems. 
  • Who decides what is adequate? It is tempting to say that if someone leaves their job, gives up their home, wears dirty clothes and lives in a van they're not functioning adequately, however they may simply be exercising their right to step outside of the rules and conformity of mainstream society. 
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Definition: Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

  • This starts with what is normal or mentally healthy and works backwards from that
  • Jahoda suggested that normal mental health includes
    • Positive attitudes towards the self 
    • Self actualization
    • Being resistant to stress
    • Personal autonomy 
    • Accurate perception of reality
    • Adapting to and mastering the environment
  • Abnormality is an absence of criteria and Jahoda argues that if a person deviated from one or more, they would be more vulnerable to a psychological disorder.
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DIMH Limitations

  • Who can achieve these criteria? As the name implies, DIMH represents deviation from an ideal state. Very few people would match the criteria and the majority of the population would be classified as abnormal. This definition also does not state how far a person must deviate before being defined as abnormal? This makes psychologically healthy people anxious
  • Characteristics listed above are rooted in Western societies and a Western view of personal growth and achievement. For example, self actualization may be seen as a key goal in life within some Western cultures but not other cultures. In collectivist ones, elders plan the youngs' future. It may therefore be regarded as abnormal to go after your own goals if they are in conflict with those of your own culture. This cultural relativity severely limits the scope of DIMH.
  • Cant measure mental health objectively. There is some concern that measuring mental health differs a great deal from measurin physical health. With physical health, there are often physical causes which makes them easy to detect and diagnose. However, this is much harder with mental health. 
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Definition: Deviation from Social Norms

  • The defintion degines abnormality in terms of behavior that deviates from social norms
  • In any society there are social norms - standards of acceptable behavior that are set by the social group. Sometimes these are unwritten but generally expected so anything that goes against these norms is considered abnormal.
  • This defintion is concerned with behavior that is antisocial or undersirable 
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DSN Limitations

  • Social norms change over time. Homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder in the DSM up until it was updated in 1980. Today, most people in the UK accept it as falling within social norms, and its acceptance has been further supported by the introduction of civil partnerships between same-sex couples
  • Cultural relativity is a key issue in relation to the DSN definition. Social norms by their very definition are specific to a particular culture or society, so a behavior seen as a deviation in one society may appear quite acceptable in another. Example: the Dani society wait two years after marriage before having sex. That would be seen as a deviation in other cultures.
  • The context needs to be considered. Behavior that deviates from social norms isnt always a sign of psychological illness; the context needs to be taken into account. Also, many abnormal behaviors are done in order to raise money for charity but the context means the person is not showing psychologically damaged behavior because of the good cause. 
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Assumptions: Biological Approach

  • Abnormality is caused by physical factors. All behavior is associated with changes in biological function, thus abnormaly behavior is caused by genetic factors or changes in either the structure or function of the brain.
  • Abnormality is inherited. There are abnormal genes that can be passed down from parents to children, even though they may not be shown in every generation. Family, twin and adoption studies are used to establish concordance rates to test for genetic predispositions.
  • Holland et al (1988) - found a 56% concordance rate for identical twins and only a 5% rate for non-identical twins in anorexia nervosa
  • Abnormality is caused by biochemical and/or neuroanatomic changes. This involves changes like a damaged hypothalamaus may be linked to anorexia. Abnormality can also be caused by the irregular activity of brain neurotransmitters. Low levels of serotonin link to depression and overactive levels of dopamine link to schizophrenia. 
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Evaluation: Biological Approach


  • Physiological evidence - Use of brain scans and other modern techniques identify biological aspects of many psychological disorers. Brain scans can provide objective findings that highlight the biological links w/psychological disorders. Depression associated w/lowered levels of brain chemical serotonin.
  • Success of its treatment - Biological approach contributed greatly to the formation of effective treatments for psychological disorders like drug therapy and SSRIs 


  • No psychological disorder is purely genetic - Although a genetic basis has been found, concordance rates are never 100%. Gottesman & Shields found a concordance rate for identical twins of 50%. It is likely that individuas inherit susceptibility but it only develops if the individual is exposed to stressful life conditions. (Diathesis-Stress Model)
  • The biological approach is deterministic - Biological model believes all abnormality has a physical base and if there are any physical problems you will sugger from a disorder. Takes out the element of free will and choice that the patient has. There is a clear cognitive element in some depressive cases. This suggests that having a physical ailment will not inevitably result in psychopathology. 
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Assumptions: Psychodynamic Approach

  • Conflicts occur most often between the ID's desire for immediate gratification and the superego's desire to maintain moral standards and ideals.
  • If the ID and superego's conflicts are not resolved, abnormality results because there is a lack of ego development. This means either the ID or superego is dominant.
  • The ego is the rational part of the personality and so the lack of development of the ego may result in a loss of contact w/reality
  • ID may dominate instead and because it is childlike, the behavior is irrational and pleasure seeking. 
  • If the superego is dominant, the individual feels excessive guilt because the superego is the moral conscience
  • Ego protects itself against anxiety by using defense mechanisms, such as repression and displacement.
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Assumptions II: Psychodynamic

  • Fixation at one of the psychosexual stages also causes abnormality.
  • Freud proposed we all develop through psychosexual stages and that excessive or lack of gratification at any of these stages can lead to fixation, that is, an unconscious preoccupation with that particular stage and these fixations are expressed in our behaviors as adults. 
  • Fixation at the anal stage could have been caused by too strict potty training - this leaves the individual obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness and may show itself in OCD as an adult.
  • Oral (0 - 1) - mouth, tongue, lips - weaning off of breastfeeding - smoking, overeating
  • Anal (1 - 3) - **** - toilet trainin - orderliness and messiness
  • Phallic (3 - 6) - genitals - resolving oedipus/electra complex - deviancy + sexual dysfunction
  • Latency (6 - 12) - none - defense mechanisms - none
  • Genital (12+) - genitals - full sexual maturity 
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Evaluation: Psychodynamic


  • The approach was hugely influential. Freud's theory was the first to emphasize the significance of the unconscious processes and repressed material influencing our behavior. He also was the first to note how our adult behavior could be influenced by early childhood exerience. This is now widely accepted. Repression of such traumatic events may reveal itself in adult anxiety and depression. Freud illustrated the importance and the power of the mind in the development of abnormal behavior. 
  • Removes the responsibility for abnormality from the patient. Abnormal behavior is seen as coming from the unconscious mind over which the individual has no conscious control this creates greater sympathy for people w/psychological disorders. The talking therapies popularized by the psychodynamic therapist's aims to make the patient aware of these drivers. Also, focus on talking as opposed to drugs is seen as more humane. 
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Evaluation II: Psychodynamic


  • The theory lacks falsifiability - key concepts of the theory such as the ID and repression are almost impossible to test scientifically. If someone recalls painful childhood memories, that is seen as a cause of later abnormality and supports the theory. However if trauma is not recalled, this is also seen as validating the theory as the experiences have been repressed. Model cannot be proven wrong and falsification is a key criterion of science, meaning the psychodynamic model has difficulties with the idea of psychology as a science.
  • Too much focus on the past - original model emphasized childhood influences at the expense of ingnoring current difficulties clients might be facing. Also criticized for over-emphasizing sexual factors, due to the sexually repressed times Freud lived in. It is important to take into account of current factors that might be contributing to the person's problems. Current psychodynamic approaches acknowledge this and recognize the role inadequate relationships and everyday problems play in abnormality and have tried to include these. 
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Assumptions: Behavioural Approach

  • All behavior is learned through experience and abnormal behavior is no different from normal behavior. 
  • Classical Conditioning (learning by association) and Operant Conditioning (learning by reinforcement) can explain the acquisition of abnormal behavior in people. This emphasizes the importance of the environment and concentrates solely on behaviors
  • CC would explain phobias by the association of a neutral stimulus with a frightening experience. 
  • OC would explain Anti-Social Personality Disorder as being the outcome of childhood aggression being rewarded (positive reinforcement).
  • Assume the mind is an unnecessary concept in understanding abnormal behavior - based on what's observable. No such thing as psychological disorders, only maladaptive behaviors. 
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Ext. Social Learning Theory

  • Believes that people learn new abnormal behaviors by observational learning. If people observe positive, desired outcomes in the observed behavior, they are more likely to model, imitate and adopt the behavior themselves.
  • Applied to the development of eating disorders. Has been argued that in some cases people with Bulimia Nervosa have mothers who also had the disorder and/or who continually diet themselves.
  • Parents act as role models who are imitated. Also argued that Anorexia Nervosa is acquired by observing role models on TV who advocate extremely slim figures and minimalistic eating habits
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Evaluation: Behavioural


  • Can be experimentally tested. The model allows clear predictions that can be tested and measured objectively (without bias) This is because its focus on observable behaviors rather than things hidden internally can be easily measured. Principles of CC and OC have been and continue to be tested scientifically in a lab. Studies like Little Albert (where the boy was conditioned with a phobia of a rat) have shown how abnormal behaviors can be learned.
  • Focuses on the present, not the past. It concentrates on the here and now and this is advantageous sincwe many people dont know the past causes of their abnormal behavior and it is more important to sort out present symptoms so they can deal efficiently with their symptoms. The model recognises the importance of the current environment and can explain cultural differences in abnormal behaviors. 
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Evaluation II: Behavioural


  • Behaviorist approach is reductionist. The approach explains all behavior purely in terms of conditioning, it reduces abnormal behavior down to the basic level of learning via association or reinforcement. Most behavior is more complex than this and may have a cognitive element to it that this model doesnt consider. It suggests humans are simple mechanisms without a consideration for the impact of biology
  • There is counter evidence. Although scientific evidence supports the model's claims of conditioning, not all research has provided the same support. Many people cannot even identify something in their life which led to the traumatic conditioning. This suggests it cant be the sole explanation for the acquisition of psychological disorders. In relation to schizophrenia, it is unlikely that the processes of conditioning could explain the disorder. The excess of dopamine may be a more efficient explanation than the behavioral model.
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Research Methods

1. Experiments

Because the model concentrates only on observable behavior, the most appropriate method of testing the behaviorist assumption is the experiment - the theory predicts that the learning environment of an individual determines the behaviors they acquire (some of which might be bad) Those which are rewarded will be repeated, while those which produce no reward will not. 

2. Animal Studies

The same basic laws of learning apply to human and non-human animals. This means that it's reasonable to conduct research on non-human animals such as rats and pigeons and make generalisations to human behavior. Much of the behavioral model of abnormality has been established through the study of non-human animals.

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Assumptions: Cognitive

  • Suggests that how individuals process incoming information is key to understanding abnormal behavior. They emphasise the role of schemas which create beliefs, thoughts and perceptions in causing psychological disorders. These schemas include faulty thoughts and distorted beliefs. The approach applies most to depression and anxiety. 
  • Main assumptions is that cognitive processes become automatic. Abnormal behavior in people with psychological problems is the result of them having more negative automatic thoughts and/or distorted thinking + making inaccurate attributions and have irrational expectations. 
  • Ellis maintained that everyone has rational and irrational thoughts at times. However, psychological problems only occur if people engage in faulty thinking to the extent that they lead to maladaptive behavior for them and others around them.
  • Beck explained depression as occuring through three illogical thought processes (the cognitive triad) resulting in irrational, negative feelings and leading to depression:
    • Negative thoughts about the world
    • Negative views about the future
    • Negative views about self
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Evaluation: Cognitive


  • Research supports the role of distorted thoughts in abnormal behavior. There's clear evidence for dysfunctional thinking and beliefs in depression and anxiety disorders. 
  • Abela & D'Alessandru: found students who had taken a pre-test that identified them as at risk of depression, who did not get into their university of choice, afterwards doubted their ability even more. Research of this kind has a good face validity and suggests a clear cognitive cause. 
  • The individual has the power to change. It's a positive approach because it empowers the individual. This is because we create our own thoughts and this model perceivs people with psychological disorders as having the ability to change their own cognitions. If we can change our thoughts, we can change the behavior. Model gives people the power to change and suggests we have free will. Increases self-belief of the individual to take responsibility for changing their undersirable behavior. 
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Evaluation II: Cognitive


  • Cause or effect - a criticism of this model is it doesnt explain whether dysfunctional thinking causes depression or whether depression causes the thinking. Difficult to establish which comes first because people are researched after their abnormality has developed. Beck pointed out that although cognitive processes are involved, they may well be a consequence rather than a cause. Without understanding which causes the other, we may actually just be addressing the symptoms rather than the cause.
  • Individual is responsible & so situational factors are overlooked. Because of the focus on mental processes, not enough emphasis on the other possible contributing factors. Cognitive model doesnt take into account how life events or family problems may have contributed to the disorder. 
  • Also raises the ethical question of whether people have the right to say someone's belief system is faulty (especially if that person's life experiences support their negative world view) This suggests it should at least consider a more holistic approach in addressing disorders. 
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Research Methods

1. Experiments

Assumptions can be tested. Like Thase et al compared cognitive therapy with antidepressant medication in the treatment of depression. Results showed that the cognitive therapy was no less effective than medication and was better tolerated by patients. 

2. Meta-analysis

In meta-analysis, a researcher looks at the findings from a number of different studies in order to reach a general conclusion about a particular hypothesis. Smith & Glass in a meta analysis of research on psychotherapies cited cognitive therapy as having the second highest average success rate among ten different forms of psychology?

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Research Methods

1. Experiments

Assumptions can be tested. Like Thase et al compared cognitive therapy with antidepressant medication in the treatment of depression. Results showed that the cognitive therapy was no less effective than medication and was better tolerated by patients. 

2. Meta-analysis

In meta-analysis, a researcher looks at the findings from a number of different studies in order to reach a general conclusion about a particular hypothesis. Smith & Glass in a meta analysis of research on psychotherapies cited cognitive therapy as having the second highest average success rate among ten different forms of psychology?

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