Definitions of abnormality

Definitions of abnormaility and their limitations.

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Livvi
  • Created on: 05-06-11 15:49

Deviation from the socail norms.

Deviant behaviour, e.g. behaviour which is considered anti-social or undesirable by the majority of society. For example: politeness.

Social standards are not restricted to ruless of etiquette but also more serious moral issues, such as what is acceptable in sexual behaviour. Our culture permits sex between consenting adults of any gender.

1 of 6

Deviation from the socail norms. Limiations

Susceptible to abuse

The main problem is that social norms is that it varies as times change. What is socially acceptable now may not have been 50 years ago, e.g. homosexuality. If we define abnormality in terms of deviation from social norms we open the door to definitions based on prevailing social morals and attitudes which allows mental health proffessionals to classify as mentally ill those individuals who transgress against social attitudes.

Deviance is related to context and degree

Making judgments on deviance is often related to the context of a behaviour. A person on a beach wearing next to nothing is regarded as normal, whereas the same outfit in a classroom would be regarded as abnormal. There is not a clear line between what is abnormal deviation and what is harlmess eccentricity.

Cultural relativism

Attempts to devine abnormality in terms of social norms are influenced by culture. What may be seen as a diagnosable disorder for a psychologist in the UK may bot be viewed that way by a psychologist from another country.

2 of 6

Failure to function adequatley.

From an individual's point of view, abnormality can be judged in terms of not being able to cope. For exmaple, if you are feeling depressed, meals, wash your clothes, and generally go about day-to-day living.

3 of 6

Failure to function adequatley. Limitations

Who judges?

In order to determine "failure to function adequately" someone needs to decide if this is actually the case. On the other hand, it may be that the indiviual is quite content with the situation and/or simply unaware that they are not coping. It is others who are uncomfortable and judge the behviour as abnormal.

Adaptive or maladaptive?

Some maladaptive behaviour can actually be adaptive and functional for the individual. For example, some mental disorders, such as eating disorders or depression may lead to welcome extra attention for the individual .

Cultural relativism

Definitions of adequate functioning are also related to cultural ideas of how one's life should be lived. The "failure to function" is likely to result in different diagnoses when applied to people with different cultues,

4 of 6

Deviation from ideal mental health.

Six categories that were commonly referred to for ideal mental health;

  • Self attitudes: having high self- esteem and a strong sense of identity.
  • Personal growth and self actualisation- the extent to which an indiviudal develops their full capabilities.
  • Intergration- Being able to cope with stresfful situations.
  • Autonomy- being independent and self-regulating.
  • Having an accurate perception of reality.
  • Mastery of the environment- ability to love, function at work and in interpersonal relations, adjust to new situations and solve problems.
5 of 6

Deviation from ideal mental health. Limitations.

Who can achieve all these criteria?

Most of us are abnormal to some degree. How many of these do we need to be lacking before a person is judged as abnormal?

Is Mental health the same as physical as physical health?

Doctors use signs of health as a means of detecting physical illness, but they also look for signs of illness such as fever or pain. Can mental illness be detected in the same way? It is possible that some mental illnesses also have physical causes nut many do not.

Cultural relativism

If we apply these criteria to people from a non-western or even non-middle class social groups we will most probably find a higher incidence of abnormality.

6 of 6


Charlotte Kearney


sweeeeet!! thank you!

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Abnormality resources »