Definitions of Abnormality

HideShow resource information

Definitions of Abnormality

1) Deviation from Social Norms
This suggests that abnormality occurs when someone goes against societies rules on how an individual should behave. These could be actual laws or just behaviours generally expected by society. Some examples in Britain are personal hygiene or wearing clothes. Someone deviating from these social norms are regarded as being abnormal.


  • Social norms change over time, and so what may be classed as an abnormal behaviour at one point in time may not be at a later date.
  • Social norms are different across cultures, as one culture may consider a behaviour to be abnormal, whereas another may not. This means it is influenced by cultural relativism.
  • Not all behaviour that deviates from social norms is a sign of abnormality – it depends on the context that the behaviour is displayed in; for example people in a charity event wearing pyjamas is not abnormal, as it is in context.

2) Failure to Function Adequately

This suggests that abnormality is when someone cannot function on their own on a day-to-day basis. Mentally healthy people are able to operate within a certain acceptable limit - but when someone cannot operate within this limit, it is a sign of abnormality. Rosenhan


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Abnormality resources »