Flashcards in Mental Health Deck (36)
6 Approaches to normality
Social and Cultural
Normal and Abnormal behaviours
Typically a behaviour is considered to
be normal when it helps a person to assimilate appropriately into their society or
culture. In contrast, abnormal or atypical behaviour is viewed as ‘out of the ordinary’.
These behaviours go against societal and cultural norms, may reflect some kind of
impairment, or consist of unwelcome behaviours
How we behave in specific situations can classify our behaviour as being normal or
not. For instance, would it be normal for you to suddenly stand up during school
assembly and call out to another student on the other side of the hall? Probably not.
On the other hand, calling out could be viewed as normal behaviour if you were
playing soccer on the school oval at lunchtime and wanted to kick the ball to th
Social and Cultural
Within a society there are norms and rules that
govern our social behaviour. These can be linked to
our ethnic and cultural background. The way we
interact with others, the way we dress, what we eat
and the way we talk can all be based on societal rules
Australia is a multicultural society. Parents from
different ethnic backgrounds often have different
expectations of their children. It is likely that within
your class, different students are expected to behave
at home in different ways based on cultural or
Have you had your ears pierced? If so, when was
this done? In Chile a baby girl usually has her ears
pierced before leaving hospital after birth. Other societies and cultures may shun the
thought of ear piercing completely. Body piercing and tattoos may be seen as normal
in some societies and risky behaviour or taboo in others. (In Australia, the legal age
for getting a tattoo is 18 years.)
The concept of normality is embedded in history and changes over time. For
example, at what age do you plan to leave home? Is this different from the age your
parents, grandparents and teachers first left home?
What about fashion? What were your teachers wearing when they were your age?
What about your parents and grandparents? Even the way we speak and the language
we use changes over time. Try speaking an older style of English, such as that used in
a Shakespearean play, and you will probably get odd looks.
How long did you sleep for last night? What mark did
you get for your psychology test?
Normality can also be defined in terms of the
frequency with which a behaviour or characteristic
occurs within the population. A set of data is collected,
and measures of central tendency (mean, mode and
median) and range are calculated to determine the
average behaviour or characteristic. Data that lie outside
the normal range for the population could be considered
abnormal. For example, an extremely tall girl whose
family is quite short may not be considered normal, but
a tall girl who comes from a tall family is considered
normal for that population (her family).
The statistical approach to normality also relates
to the developmental norms. For instance, if an infant
does not learn to crawl within the expected timeframe,
then further investigation may be needed just in case
something is wrong.
Functional and psychological dysfunction
Psychological dysfunction occurs when there is a breakdown in the way a person
thinks, feels and behaves. A person who can think, feel and behave in a manner that
allows them to carry out the activities they wish to do and be a productive member
of society is considered normal. They can function relatively independently at a level
expected for their age.
Most of us will have experienced a time where we have not functioned well. For
example, avoiding a party because you don’t know anyone there. It is when these
thoughts, feelings and behaviours become intense and interfere with normal activities
that a mental disorder may exist
The medical approach to normality views a mental disorder in terms of a
physical illness with a possible biological basis. The person’s state of mental health
is determined by a set of symptoms that may have genetic, biochemical or physical
origins. For example: a person suffering from a mood disorder such as depression,
may need anti-depressant medication such as a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor to help
balance the chemical imbalance in the brain and relieve the person’s symptoms of
persistent sadness. If a parent has a mental disorder, then heredity may play a role
and increase that person’s chance of developing a mental disorder in the future.
Adaptive behaviours are age-appropriate ‘everyday
living skills’ that can be as basic as walking, talking, dressing on
our own, attending school or cooking up a huge bowl of popcorn.
Essentially, these are skills that develop through experience, help
us to adjust to our environment, assist in our ability to relate
to others and allow us to become independent adults who can
function effectively within our society and culture. The ability to
developmentally cope and adapt is influenced by many factors.
6 Factors that influence the development of adaptive behaviours:
Parental interest in education
Happy and secure home environment
ability to bounce back from difficult situations or life’s problems can
be learned from parental modelling, teachers and/or peers.
In contrast, maladaptive behaviours develop as a means of
reducing anxiety and originate from early childhood experiences,
family situations and environmental stressors. In a way, they can be
viewed as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, these behaviours
generally interfere with a person’s ability to function on a day-today
basis and impair their adjustment to different situations. These
behaviours are sometimes evident when children begin school and
can include: rocking, repetitive movements or repeating words and
phrases, ritualistic behaviours, self-harm, tantrums, screaming,
violent or aggressive behaviour, lack of cooperation, verbally
inappropriate behaviour, calling out in class or being disruptive.
Although, developmentally, most children display unwanted and
often annoying behaviours, it is those who do not seem to improve
or learn to adjust to their environment who are at greater risk.
2 types of factors that influence whether a child will develop adaptive or maladaptive
behaviours include the following.
Early childhood experiecnes
Early childhood experiences, 3 examples
> Avoidant or ambivalent attachment as an infant. When a baby is born, most of its
contact is with its mother or main caregiver. If the baby does not receive consistent
nurturing that he/she needs, the child may develop trust issues which can be
carried through to adulthood.
> Unhelpful parenting – where the parent/guardian/carer uses an inconsistent and
harsh parenting style
> Violence, abuse and neglect. Children can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD), anxiety and depression
2 examples of environmental stressors
> Poverty and unemployment.
> Natural disasters – consider what it would be like living in a country that was
prone to earthquakes or bushfires. A person could become quite withdrawn and
avoid situations due to their high level of anxiety and fear.
a state of emotional and social wellbeing in which individuals can realise their own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their community.
Mental health problems
problems that cause emotional, cognitive and behavioural difficulties that affect relationships and functioning in everyday life
exaggerated forms of normal thoughts, feelings and behaviours, implying the existence of a clinically recognisable set of symptoms and behaviours that usually need treatment to be alleviated
Research has found that both internal and external factors can a ect a person’s mental health and wellbeing. When we talk about ‘internal factors’
an individual’s personality, emotions, intelligence, self-esteem, or physical health. Factors that are controlled or come from within oneself.
in uences that originate from the person’s environment such as family, school, friends, work, social, cultural, religious, education, employment and socio-economic status.
Locus of control
Sometimes internal and external factors are considered in terms of ‘locus of control’, which re ects whether a person perceives that they have control over their behaviour or they are controlled by external factors.
Internal locus of control
For example, a student who
has an internal locus of control will be more likely to take responsibility for their learning and the way they act. If they perform well on a SAC, they will see this as a re ection of their hard work and feel pride in their performance. On the other hand, if they don’t do as well as they had hoped, they will accept that they need to work harder for the next test.
External lockouts of control
A person with an external locus of control believes that their behaviour is governed by outside in uences such as luck. A student may say that they did well on the SAC because it was easy, or if they did badly, that it was the teachers fault!
Internal and external risk and protective factors
When we look at the in uence of internal and external factors, we realise that these cannot be considered in isolation. Instead, we need to take both aspects into account. Both can be either protective and potentially adaptive factors, or risk factors that lead to maladaptive behaviours and the inability to cope with changes in our lives. The greater the number of internal and external risk factors, the greater the chance of developing a mental disorder. Consequently, mental health is a product of internal and external factors.
5 examples from each column
3 factors that effect how we cope with change and challenge
Personality refers to individual di erences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual di erences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability.The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.
How nature and nurture effect personality
Nature: A person’s genetic make-up can play a major role in determining
personality. This is especially shown by the high correlations for identical twins reared in di erent environments, and the fact that there is still some correlation for fraternal twins reared apart. This case is also supported by the very low correlations for unrelated children and adults living together.
> Nurture: The case for nurture is supported by the fact that, even for identical twins reared together, there is only about a 0.6 to 0.65 correlation in personality. Something has to explain the di erence, and this can only be environment and the experiences that the person has had.
The big 5
> neuroticism (opposite: emotional stability) – meaning a person is anxious,
stressed, depressed and self-conscious
> extroversion (opposite: introversion) – meaning a person is outgoing, sociable,
active, assertive and impulsive
> agreeableness (opposite: self-interest and suspicion) – meaning a person is
compassionate and trusting
> conscientiousness (opposite: laziness and carelessness) – meaning a person is self-
disciplined and reliable
> openness to experience (opposite: close-mindedness) – meaning a person enjoys
new experiences, intellectual challenges and meeting a variety of people.