explanations of abnormality

biological explanations of abnormality

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BIOLOGICAL explanations of abnormality

Abnormal behaviours are illnesses caused by the possible combination of genetic, biochemical, hormonal and/or neurological factors.

The four basic assumptions are: 





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Apply research findings - the biological explanati

1. Human Genome Project: (genes) - concerned with looking at DNA sequencing to provide a genetic link in psychological disorders. 

2. Brown et al (2004): (infection)

-> linked flu to schizophrenia

found that 14% of sch. cases was where the sufferer was subject to flu in the womb during the first trimester of pregnancy 

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Some people may be genetically at risk of developing a mental disorder.

A son/daughter has a 10% chance of getting schizophrenia if a parent is a sufferer from this illness.

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Neurotransmitters are thought to be imbalanced in the nervous system of people suffering from psychological disorders. Excessive amounts of dopamine have been associated with schizophrenia.

The hormone 'serotonin' is associated with depression. 

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Flu has been linked to schizophrenia. 14% of sch. cases may be linked to exposure to flu in the womb during the first trimester of pregnancy. (Brown et al)

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Abnormal behaviour can occur if the structure of the brain is damaged in some way.

An example is that of enlarged ventricles. Ventricles are sacks of fluid on our brain, people with schizophrenia tend to have larger ventricles than the normal population. 

Another example is Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia caused by the loss of cells in the nervous system. 

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AO2 - criticisms of biological explanations of abn

1) No Blame : There is a criticism that there is a concept of 'no blame'. this is when the patient blames their behaviors on their illness and therefore have no blam for what they do. Additionally, this is a criticism because the actions of the patient are said to be down to their biological problem, and not a conscious decision like normal peoples behaviors. 

2)Relinquishing responsibility : It is criticised that the patient relinquishes the responsibility of their illness to other people. These patients can be labelled passive patients, as they are handing over the responsibility of their illness to others, such as doctors. 

3) Reductionist : The biological explanations of abnormality is criticised as being reductionist as it breaks down a complex issue into a fundamental level when it is more likely a combination of many factors. 

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Findings of research to evaluate biological approa

McGUFFIN ET AL (1996) conducted research into the risk of depression in twins. The study supports to idea of genetics because he found a 46% concordance rate in identical twins compared to 20% of non identical twins for depression.l This suggests a genetic component in depression. 

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BEHAVIORIST explanation of abnormality

The behaviourist approach focuses on the behaviour of a person in order to explain psychological problems. they claim that abnormal behaviour is learend through experience, and even if something has a physical or biological predisposition, the behaviour is maintained by environmental reinforcement.

Behaviourist explanations for things such as phobias, anxiety, depression and other maladaptive or dysfunctional behaviours centre around 3 specific things:

1) Classical conditioning

2) Operant conditioning

3) Social learning theory

Behaviourist says:

All behaviour is learned in the same way. We are born as blank slates ad learn everything. Aditionally, the same basic laws that apply to animal behaviour can also explain human behaviour. 

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SUPPORT of the behaviourist explanations of abnorm


focuses on behaviour:

Overcomes the ethical issue raised by the medical model of labelling someone abnormal as it looks at your behaviour first. The behaviourist approach concentrates on whether behaviour is maladaptive or adaptive. the assumption is that maladaptive learned behaviour can be replaced with new adaptive learned behaviour for therapies using behavioural approach.

focuses on functioning:

Providing the behaviour presents no problems, there is no reason to regard the behaviour as a mental disorder if it doesn't present problems to the individual or other people. 

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CRITICISM of the behaviourist explanations of abno

The behaviourist approach to explaining abnormality ignores the causes:

Supporters of the psychodynamic model claim that the behaviourist model focuses only on symptoms and ignores the causes of abnormal behaviour. When the symptoms are treated without looking at deeper problems, the problem will only manifest its self in other ways ( symptom substitution )

The behaviourist approach is reductionist:

Acused of being reductionist and simplistic because it explains complex behaviours in very narrow terms, through the process of conditioning and observation, but ignoring the roles of biology,emotion,or thinking.

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