Definitions of abnormality

  • Created by: Bolt 775
  • Created on: 23-12-18 10:54

Abnormality-A psychological or behavioural state leading to impairment of interpersonal functioning and/or distress to others

4 criteria for defining abnormality are described below:

Deviation from social norms-This involves behaviour that violates accepted social rules.To deviate means to stray away from an expected standard.A social norm is an expected behaviour that an individual is expected to conform to within their society or a society.

Strengths of the definition:

-Helps with developmental norms

Developmental norms are standards by which a child and/or person may reach by a certain age,this can help explain if someone is developing normally or abnormally against the expected requirements.The definition establishes what behaviours are normal for different ages,for example,wearing a nappy age 2 is considered normal,perhaps not though if you're 40.

-Helps society/people

Society gives itself the right to intervene in 'abnormal' people's lives.This can be beneficial as some individual's may not be aware of their actions and need serious help,they may not be able to get the help they need.The definition seeks to protect society from the effects an individual's abnormal behaviour and the impact it may have on others.

Limitations of the definition:

-Era and culture dependent (cultural relativism)

Era dependent means there is not necessarily a consistent definition of abnormality because something which may be considered abnormal at present may not be considered abnormal in the future,as moral standards vary over time as social attitudes change.For example,homosexuality was once considered 'abnormal' and wasn't removed from the International Classification of Diseases classification of mental disorders until 1990,as it broke the social norms of the day.Attitudes have considerably changed now and homosexuality is no longer seen as 'psychopathlogy'.

-Can lead to abuse of human rights

Not all behaviours that break social norms are a sign of 'psychopathology' but those that are simply expressing individualism or eccentric behaviour and are not problematic in any sense.For example,in 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her


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