AQA - definitions of abnormality

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  • Created by: Rachel
  • Created on: 15-05-11 12:32

[ Deviation from social norms ] :

  • Any behaviour which differs from the behaviour which society expects is defined as abnormal. Society has established "social norms" which are expectations about how "normal" people behave. Any behaviour which breaks these norms or rules is seen as abnormal. E.g schizophrenia, anorexia.


  • problem of social context.
    • what is seen as abnormal can vary. For example, sleeping with a weapon may be seen as abnormal, but if that person has been previously attacked whilst sleeping it isn't abnormal. So what is abnormal in one context may not be abnormal in another. Therefore, this definition cannot be used universally because it cannot be generalised about behaviour which deviates from the norm.
  • problem of social control.
    • another limitation of this definition is that it sometimes means that people who do not "fit in" with society, and whose behaviour is therefore seen as abnormal, are rejected by society and become outsiders. E.g. Young unmarried pregnant women in the past. Therefore it can be used as a foemof social control, so people who society feel uncomfortable about can become isolated or institutionalised.

[ Failure to function adequately ] :

  • According to this definition, a person who fails to function and cope adequately on a daily basis is abnormal.

5 main indicators of failure to function adequately:

1. Dysfunctional behaviour - behaving in a way which interferes with one's ability to lead a normal life. e.g. Alcoholism

2. Personal distress - being unable to function due to emotional instability. e.g. Claustrophobia.

3. Observer discomfort - Causing upset and…


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