Revision Notes

A form of behaviour that is engaged by a minority of people in society. It is usually regarded in some way as negative and causes disruption to the ability of the individual to live their life in the same manner as others. Such behaviour is generally regarded as mental illness and would be included with depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

Definitions of Abnormality
There are four predominant definitions of abnormality;
1) Deviation from social norms
2) Failure to function adequately
3) Deviation from ideal mental health
4) Statistical infrequency

1) Deviation from social norms
All societies have social norms for example the social norm for a grandmother is a small, polite vulnerable woman who is loved dearly, not someone who swears a lot and walks around scantily clad, the latter would contravene social norms. There are also social norms and schemas for occasions such as days out on the beach or a wedding. Abnormal behaviour is behaviour that is said to violate social norms. The reason for the violation of social norms could be down to the fact that those who act abnormally have psychological disorders. The theory states that abnormal behaviour is caused by psychological disorders such as depression, phobias and other psychopathological disorders.

- Eccentric or Abnormal? Deviation from social norms does not always indicate psychological abnormality. We often decide that behaviours that deviate from the norm are merely ‘eccentric’ rather than abnormal. Streaking on a football pitch is eccentric behaviour but does not indicate abnormality, whereas speaking to the Quaagar warriors out loud in public would indicate a psychological disorder. Therefore not all abnormal behaviour is psychologically abnormal but merely based on personality.

-Abnormal or Criminal? The behaviour of people who violate legal norms is usually regarded as abnormal but this behaviour is rarely seen as a psychological disorder. Therefore those who commit crimes such as theft are abnormal yet they aren’t necessarily psychologically ill. However those who commit crimes such as mass murder and **** and paedophilia are said to suffer psychopathological disorders.

-The role of context Behaviour is context specific, out of the context out behaviour could seem bizarre and could deviate from social norms. For example if you saw someone screaming or even swearing at a football match, that is not out of the ordinary, however in a shop or child’s playground this behaviour becomes very abnormal indeed.

-Change with the times Abnormality has changed over time, in the 1930’s being black was abnormal and discriminated against but it then became a social norm, in the 1980’s being gay was frowned upon and discriminated against but it then became a social norm. In 2016 being a Leeds United supporter is frowned upon and discriminated against, but who knows whether society will accept it as a norm in the future.

2) Failure to function adequately
The failure to function adequately theory was theorised by Rosenhan and Seligman in 1989. Rosenhan and Seligman suggest that the most


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