Defining abnormality

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  • Created by: Sally
  • Created on: 05-04-13 09:01

Deviation from social norms

  • Every society has commonly accepted standards of behaviour 
  • E.G not talking to yourself when shopping
  • Deviations from these unwritten but generally accepted norms is an indication of abnormality

  • provides indication of disordered behaviour
  • e.g schizophrenic who reports hearing voices


  • Cultural relativity issue: social norms are specific to cultures/ societies so behaviour seen as a deviation in one culture may not be seen as one in another
  • e.g fasting
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Deviation from ideal mental health

  • An attempt to define a state of mental health
  • Uses Jahoda's list to do so
  • Any deviation from these ideals would be defined as abnormality


  • Has value as a general & positive approach to defining abnormality
  • Emphasises a positive attitude to human behaviour & experience


  • Very few people match all of the criteria written by jahoda
  • By definition the majority of the population would be classed as abnormal
  • Unclear how far a person ould deviate before being defined as abnormal
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Jahoda's List

Individuals should...

  • Be in touch with their own identity & feelings
  • Be resistant to stress
  • Be focused on self-actualisation (our motivation to achieve our full potential)
  • Funtion as autonomous ( independently, taking responsibility for own actions) individuals with an accurate perception of reality
  • Show empathy & understanding towards others






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Failure to function adequately

  • Focuses on everyday behaviour of individuals
  • E.g waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast
  • When someone deviates from normal pattern of behaviour, it's an indication they're failing to function adequately
  • Therefore defined as being abnormal


  • Clear indication from change in normal pattern
  • Very obvious/easy to see when somehting's different


  • FFA may not just be linked to psychological disorders
  • E.G holding down job may be difficult due to economic conditions (esp. subcultures like immigrant communities)
  • E.G prejudice/ discrimination may prevent someone from getting a job
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Characteristics of failing to function adequately

Rosenhan & Seligman:

  • Behaviour causes discomfort to observer
  • Unpredictable & uncontrolled behaviour
  • Irrational & hard to understand behaviour
  • Maladaptiveness (behaviour that interferes with daily routine)
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