Unit 2 Psychology- Abnormality

Features of Abnormality.

Criticisms of Definitions of Abnormality.

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4 Main Features- 1

Statistical Infrequency

®     A person’s trait, thinking or behaviour is defined as abnormal if it is rare or statistically unusual.

®     It is necessary to be clear how rare a trait needs to be before classed as abnormal.

Average IQ in population is 100pts. Fewer people have an IQ over 100.

<2.2% of the population have an IQ below 70pts. Such people are statistically rare they’re regarded as having abnormally low IQs.

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Features Of Abnormality

Features of Abnormality

®     Mood Swings

®     Statistical Infrequency

®     Depression

®     Failure to Function Adequately

®     Faulty Perception

®     Deviation from Social Norms

®     Deception- false belief

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4 Main Features- 2

Deviation from Social Norms

®     A person’s thinking or behaviour is classified as abnormal if it violates the (unwritten) rules about what is expected or acceptable behaviours in a particular social group.

®     Behaviour; incomprehensible to others, or making others feel threatened or feel uncomfortable.

It is necessary to consider the degree to which a norm is violated, the importance of that norm and the value attached by social group to different sorts of violation.

*       E.g. is the violation rude, eccentric, abnormal or criminal?

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4 Main Features- 3

Failure to Function Adequately

®      A person is considered abnormal if they are unable to cope with the demands of everyday life.

®      They may be unable to perform the behaviours of day- to- day living.

 

*       E.g. self care, hold down a job, interact meaningfully with others, make themselves understood etc.

 

®      Rosenhan & Seligman (1989) suggest the following characteristics:

*       Suffering

*       Maladaptiveness (danger to self)

*       Vividness & unconventionality (stands out)

*       Unpredictability & loss of control

*       Irrationality/ incomprehensibility

*       Causes observer discomfort

*       Violates moral/ social standards

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4 Main Features- 4

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

®     Rather than defining what is abnormal, we define what is normal/ideal and anything that deviates from this is considered as abnormal.

®     This requires us to decide on the characteristics we consider necessary to mental health.

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Criticisms of Definitions of Abnormality

Criticising Definitions- exist in all definitions examined

®     Subjectivity

®     Over and under inclusivity

®     Cultural Relativity

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Criticisms of 4 Main Features- 1

Statistical Infrequency

®     Doesn’t consider desirability of behaviours or traits.

*       Very high intelligence or extremely altruistic behaviours are both statistically rare, but wouldn’t generally be classed as ‘abnormal’.

*       Many rare behaviours or characteristics (e.g. left handedness) have no bearing on normality or abnormality.

®     Some behaviours/characteristics are regarded as abnormal, even though they are quite frequent.

*       Depression may affect 27% of elderly people (NIMH 2001). This would make it common, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

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Criticisms of 4 Main Features- 2

Violation of Social Norms

®      Social norms change between cultures and overtime. Consequently, so do people’s conceptions of abnormality.

*       Homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness until 1973, but not anymore.

*       Cross-cultural misunderstandings are common, and may contribute to e.g. high diagnosis rate of schizophrenia amongst non-white British people.

®      Classification of abnormality can only be based on the context in which behaviour occurs.

*       Same behaviour might be normal or abnormal e.g. ********** in bathroom or classroom.

*       A subjective judgement is usually necessary e.g. there may be situational factors unknown to the observer.

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Criticisms of 4 Main Features- 3

Failure to Function Adequately

®      Adequate functioning is defined largely by social norms. Most people fail to function adequately at some time, but are not considered ‘abnormal’.

*       After a bereavement most people find it difficult to cope normally.

*       Ironically, they might actually be considered more abnormal if they functioned as usual.

®      Many people engage in behaviour that is maladaptive/ harmful or threatening to self, but we don’t class them as abnormal.

*       Adrenaline Sports

*       Smoking, drinking alcohol

*       Skipping classes

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Criticisms of 4 Main Features- 4

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

®     What is considered ideal is historically and culturally specific.

®     Jahoda’s and others’ criteria set the bar too high.

*       Strictly applied, so few people meet these criteria that everyone ends up classed as abnormal and so the concept becomes meaningless.

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