definitions of abnormality and their limitations

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  • Created by: moriya
  • Created on: 31-05-13 11:28

Deviation from social norms:

The term deviation refers to deviant behaviour i.e. behaviour which is anti-social and undesirable by the majority of society.

Social norms are set in a society. These are standard of acceptable behaviour set by the social group. Politeness is an example of a social norm. If someone is rude he will be deviating from the social norms because people will find it hard to communicate with him. In the past, homosexuality was seen as a socially deviant behaviour in the UK. Paedophilia is also classified as a deviant behaviour.

However, the main difficulty with using this definition of abnormality is that social norms vary over time. What is seen as socially acceptable now may not have been socially acceptable 50 years ago. For example homosexuality today is acceptable but in the past it was included under the sexual and gender identity disorders. In Russia 50 years ago anyone who disagreed with the state ran the risk of being regarded as insane and placed in a mental institution

Further, deviance is related to context and degree. A person wearing close to nothing on the beach is regarded as normal but if a person wore close to nothing in a classroom they would be regarded as abnormal. In many cases there is not a clear line between what an abnormal deviation is and what simple more harmless eccentricity is. Being rude is deviant behaviour but not evidence of mental disturbance unless it is excessive.

Lastly, social norms vary from culture to culture, because the social norms are defined by the culture. Clothing is an example of this as some African tribe’s wear very little clothing whereas Western cultures keep certain areas of the body covered at all times. 


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