Models of Abnormality

These cards are based on the four approaches : biological, cognitive, behavioural and psychodynamic and their weaknesses and strengths.

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  • Created by: rio
  • Created on: 02-01-11 18:46

The Biological Approach

The biological approach

--> This model assumes that psychological disorders are physical illnesses with physical causes.

--> This model describes abnormal behaviour in terms of physical factors such as genetics, neuro-transmitters or infection. The model believes that these factors can either be inherited or caused by viral infection.

--> Gottesman conducted a meta-analysis on twin studies and found that people had a 48% chance of developing Schizophrenia if their identical twin had it. This provides us with evidence that it is not only genetic factors which cause abnormality otherwise the concordance rate would have been 100%.

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--> According to the model, another cause for abnormality is a bio-chemical imbalance, e.g high levels of dopamine have been said to cause schizophrenia.


-->Thomas Szaz said that physical and mental illnesses are not the same, therefore shouldn't be treated the same way.

--> Also, it isn't evident whether physical symptoms of a mental disorder are what caused the disorder in the first place, or whether the physical symptoms are a consequence of the disorder itself.

--> Doesn't take into account individual differences.

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--> The model has a scientific bases; therefore there is lots of evidence to back it up and the concepts can be easily tested.

--> Doesn't go against ethical guidelines as the individuals are not blamed for their disorders.

--> The treatments ( ECT and Drugs ) have proven to be effective.

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Psychodynamic Approach

Psychodynamic Approach...

--> This model is based all around Freud's division of personality: id, ego & superego and the stages of development: oral, anal, phallic,latency and genitals.

--> ID- Unconscious instincts
EGO- Rational part, balances demands of ID and SUPEREGO.
SUPEREGO- Last part of personality that develops, it is all about morals.

-->This model assumes that an individuals behaviour is determined by underlying psychological conflicts of which they are unaware. The anxiety from the conflicts is then repressed into our unconscious mind and stress or trauma later in life triggers these repressed conflicts which leads to psychological disorders.

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--> Focuses on patients thoughts rather than the problems they are facing meaning it is hard to establish cause & effect.

--> Theory was developed in Vienna in the 19th century meaning ideas might be out-dated or culture bound.

--> Approach suffers from gender bias as he was thought to be sexist.

--> Freud's claims are based on his subjective interpretations meaning the concepts are hard to scientifically test which will result in reduced validity.

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Strengths ...

-->It is the first odel to focus on psychological causes of disorders.

--> Stresses the importance of psychological factors causing abnormality.

--> Many people would agree that unconscious processes do have an effect on our behaviour.

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Behavioural Approach

Behavioural model...

--> This model argues that abnormal behaviour is learnt in the same way that all behaviours are learnt. It pushes forward  the idea that all behaviour is learnt through either classical conditioning (learning through assosciation) or operant conditioning (learning through reinforcement).

--> Classical conditioning is thought to explain abnormal behaviour such as phobias; whereas, operant conditioning is used to explain things sch as anorexia and bullemia.

--> It states that we are born as blank slates and the environment shapes our behaviour normally or abnormally.

--> Watson & Rayner done a study to test classical conditioning, they done it on an 11 month old boy known as Albert. They produced a fear in him of a white rat by associating it with a loud and scary noise. (This study caused lots of ethical issues)

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--> It is a scientific approach and the concepts are easily testable.

--> Concentrates on the present rather than delving into the past.

--> Takes into account cultral differences.


--> Model is simplistic, doesn't take into consideration other factors such as genetics.

--> The principles of behaviour have mostly been tested on animals and generalised to humans making the results less reliable.

--> Only looks at behaviour and not the underlying causes of it.

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Cognitive Approach

Cognitive Approach ...

--> Model assumes that all behaviours are controlled by thoughts and beliefs so irrational thoughts cause abnormal behaviours.

--> Ellis created an ABC model in which disorders begin with an Activating event, which leads to an irrational or rational Belief which will then lead to a Consequence.

--> Beck supports the idea behind this approach and created a model called the 'cognitive triad'

--> The model says that the individual is in control of their thoughts and therefore any abnormality is a result of faulty control.

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--> Not reductionist as it considers the role of thoughts and beliefs which are greatly involved in problems.

--> It allows a person to take contol and make a positive change to their behaviour.
--> Concentrates on the present thoughts and doesn't delve into the past.


--> un-scientific since our thoughts can't be observed or measured.

--> Lack of cause & effect- isn't certain whether the irrational beliefs cause the disorder or whether they are a product of the disorder.

--> Blames the individual for the disorder.

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