- There are primarily three definitions of abnormality including abnormality as:
- deviation from social norms.
- failure to function adequately.
- deviation from ideal mental health
Normality is behaviour that is socially acceptable. Normal behaviour conforms to social norms that are the socially desirable and expected ways of behaving in society.
Abnormality is behaviour that is socially unacceptable and doesn’t conform to social norms or standards. Breaking these social norms is considered undesirable, wrong, immoral and abnormal, requiring psychological treatment.
- What is considered abnormal varies:
- From place to place (context/society).
- From time to time.
- From situation to situation (context) within a society or culture.
- Deviation from social norms:
- Social norms are the explicit (spoken/written) and implicit (unspoken/written) rules that a society has about what are acceptable behaviours, values and beliefs.
- Every society sets up rules for behaviour based on a set of moral standards.
- Rules (codes) of conduct, whether implicit or explicit become established as social norms. People who violate such norms are often regarded as deviant or abnormal.
- Limitations of the deviation from social norms definition:
- Deviation from social norms does not always indicate psychological abnormality. We often decide that behaviours that deviate from the norm are merely ‘eccentric’ rather than abnormal in a pathological sense. On the other hand, behaviour usually regarded as eccentric may be judged as indicating mental illness if the degree of eccentricity is great enough.
- The behaviour of people who violate legal norms is usually regarded as criminal and the behaviour is rarely attributed to an underlying psychological disorder. There are, however, types of behaviour, such as **** and mass murder, where it is difficult to accept that anyone normal could have carried them out. In such cases, there is a tendency to regard the perpetrators of the crimes as abnormal and their extreme antisocial behaviour as inherent in their personality.
- Much of our behaviour is context-specific, and out of context it may seem bizarre.
- Beliefs about ‘abnormality’ and the social norms of morally acceptable behaviour change over time, so what is regarded as deviant by one generation may be perfectly acceptable to the next.
- If we adhere strictly to the view that social deviance equates to psychological abnormality there is a risk that those who deviate are labelled ‘mad’ and treated accordingly.