Abnormal - Examine 'normality' and 'abnormality' Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Abnormal - Examine 'normality' and 'abnormality' Deck (15):


- conformity to standard patterns of behaviour
- from a statistical perspective, normality is statistically regular behaviour



- behaviour that does not conform to standard behavioural patterns
- general belief that 'abnormality' is a sign that something is wrong


problems with defining 'abnormality' as the opposite of 'normality'

- imprecise explanation; the extent of one's abnormality is subjective
- what extent of abnormality requires treatment?


common interpretations of abnormality

- statistical abnormality
- deviation from social norms
- maladaptiveness
- Jahoda's positive mental health (1958)


statistical interpretation of abnormality

- abnormal behaviour is statistically infrequent
- useful for dealing with numbers (e.g. IQ scores, or scores of personality measures)
- this allows us to determine exactly what range of numbers most people fall under (the mean value)


assumptions involved with statistical abnormality

- statistically normal behaviour causes less problems
- statistics can decide whether certain behaviours are abnormal or not


what's wrong with the statistical interpretation of abnormality?

- assumes that statistically normal behaviour causes less problems -- but obesity, which is undesirable, is becoming statistically normal
- assumes statistics can decide whether certain behaviours are abnormal or not -- but some statistically infrequent behaviours are considered desirable rather than abnormal (e.g. high IQ)
- much harder when NOT dealing with numbers (e.g. how much hunger is abnormal? how do you compare between people's experiences of hunger?)
- statistics cannot account for the fact that people exhibit complex behavioural tendencies that change over time


evaluation of statistical interpretation of abnormality

- unreliable: statistical abnormalities may be desirable, and statistical normalcy may be undesirable
- statistical means may also differ between cultures, making it impossible to establish universal standards


social interpretation of abnormality

- abnormality is behaviour that is different from what is socially expected (i.e. goes against social norms)


what's wrong with the social interpretation of abnormality?

- assumes that there are socially correct ways to behave -- culture: in a multicultural context this would be impossible to define
- historical variation: Read et al. (2004) noted that some behaviours that were considered signs of mental illness in the past are now acceptable in many cultures and social situations (e.g. homosexuality)


evaluation of the social interpretation of abnormality

- neither objective nor stable: socially based definitions change over time
- using this criterion could lead to discrimination against minorities from different cultures or those who suffer from disorders
- psychological disorders vary between cultures -- DSM includes disorders called ƒculture-bound syndromes„


maladaptiveness as an indicator of abnormality

- core assumption: all humans perform behaviours that are beneficial in the context of their environment
- thus behaviours that threaten one's function is maladaptive, and therefore abnormal


what's wrong with interpreting maladaptiveness as abnormal?

- works well when describing conditions like alcoholism or anorexia, where the person's health is in danger
- but there are people whose motivation is clearly not indicative of a disorder that may perform maladaptive behaviour, e.g. extreme sports people and political protestors who go on hunger strikes to make their point


positive mental health model

Jahoda (1958):
core assumption: if a definition of normal behaviour in the context of mental health could be established, then the opposite behaviour is the kind of abnormality that should be treated

identified 6 indicators of normalcy:
• high self-esteem
• growth, development, and self-actualization
• ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships
• autonomy/independence
• realistic perception of reality
• ability to cope with stressful situations


criticism of positive mental health model

- very few people actually fulfil the 6 criteria
- Szasz (1962): psychological normality is a culturally defined concept that cannot be objectively assessed
- Taylor and Brown (1988): the depressed are actually more accurate in their perception of reality; for most of us, functioning adequately requires some extent of self-delusion and unreasonable optimism
- cultural limitations: the criteria in the model are culturally biased value judgements that reflect an idealized rather than realistic perception of„ what it means to be human in Western culture

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