Psychology - Definitions of abnormality

Psychology - Definitions of abnormality 12 marker example.

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Definitions - Deviation

1. Deviation from social norms

Social norm = behaviour or belief that most people within a society stick to.

Social norms come from the people who make up a society. When someone does not follow the norms of their society, we are likely to notice their behaviour and be wary of that individual. When behaviours go agains the moral values shared by a whole society we often class this behaviour as abnormal.

E.g. If someone was naked in public, this would be classed as abnormal behaviour.

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Definitions - Failure to function adequately

2. Failure to function adequately

Another way in which to define abnormality is to assess whether the person is able to live a 'normal' life. This method takes into account the individual's wellbeing rather than imposing our standards on them. According to this definition, someone is classed as abnormal when they can no longer cope with the tasks of day to day living.

For example, if someone had an eating disorder, this is classed as abnormal as they carnt do an everyday task such as eating without anxiety. This would make them likely to aviod eating and therefore, fail to function adequately.

Defining abnormality this way also involved the GAF. A scale that measures how adequatley someone's functioning. This helps to indicate how much support they need and to plan treatment.

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Definitions - Ideal Mental Health

3. Ideal Mental Health

Jahoda (1958) looked at the physical health model to understand mental health. We look for a diagnosis of illness when criteria for good health, such as normal temp, blood pressure, energy levels etc. Jahoda suggests that we can look at mental health in the same way. He created 6 criteria to define ideal mental health. If people dont meet this, they'll be defined as abnormal.

  • Healthy self attitudes including good self esteem.
  • Personal growth, fulling ones potential
  • Integration, the ability to cope with stress
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Accurate perception of reality
  • Environmental mastery, the ability to have relationships, manage work, enjoy leisure, adapt to changing circumstances.
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P: One issue with deviation from social norms as a definition for abnormality is that social norms VARY AND EVOLE OVER TIME.

E: For example, Nymphomania referred to middle class women who were attracted to working class men. This would have been seen as completely against the social norms of society at the time and therefore classed as abnormal, however relationships between classes are seen as much more acceptable in modern society and therefore this is no longer classed as abnormal.

E: This means that our definition of abnormality must also evolve and vary over time.

L: As a consequence, the internal validity of this definition is reduced because abnormality is being defined in a variety of ways depending on what is accepted in society in a given point in time.

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P: One issue with failure to function adequatelyis it DOES NOT ALLOW FOR INDIVIDUALS' PERSONAL FREEDOM.

E: For example, if someone decides to give up their job and house and live in a caravan, let their hair grow long and not wash, this person would be classed as abnormal.

E: However, that person may have chosen to step outside society and live as a new age traveller.

L: Therefore, this definition of abnormality could lead to control and suppression through labelling people with abnormality

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P: A positive aspect of ideal mental health is it's LESS LIKELY TO LEAD TO RESTRICTING PERSONAL FREEDOM.

E: For example, many people strive to be autonomous and independent and so would not desire being dependent on others.

E: Therefore, Jahoda's criteria are the sort people usually seek help for rather than have it imposed on them.

L: This means that this definition truly aims to help patients, rather than control, suppress and label them with their abnormality.

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P: However, this definition can be criticised on the grounds that Jahoda's criteria is CULTURE BOUND.

E: Jahoda created the criteria in a Western society, using desired behaviour of the Western cultures. Therefore not all the criteria are desired in other cultures.

E: For example, collectivist cultures do not valure independence or personal growth.

L: This means this definition of abnormality is not universal.

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