Outline and evaluate attempts at defining psychological abnormality

Essay by crunk_gal85College, UndergraduateA-, March 2004

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(a) Outline 2 attempts to define abnormality (6 marks)

Statistical infrequency is an approach that attempts to define abnormality. It suggests that most human personality and behavioural traits fall within a normal distribution with most people crowding around the middle of the distribution (the norm). Any characteristic that is statistically rare according to this distribution is considered abnormal.

A further attempt at defining abnormality is the deviation from ideal mental health approach. This likens mental health to physical health. Jahoda (1958) suggests that there is a criterion of positive mental health, and if a person deviates from one or more of these principles, they are susceptible to a mental disorder.

(b) Give 2 limitations of statistical infrequency (6 marks)

Certain behaviours are statistically infrequent yet are not classified as abnormal. This includes such things as exceptional music talent as it is seen to be highly desirable. Therefore moderating which behaviours are infrequent and abnormal must entail some sort of criterion.

A further limitation to this definition of abnormality is it is hard to distinguish what a mental disorder is in context to this definition. Depression and anxiety disorders may be frequent in some cultures, nevertheless somewhat absent in others, which can also indicate cultural differences in search of help for disorders rather than differences in their incidence.

c) Outline and evaluate attempts to define psychological abnormality (18 marks)

Abnormality can be described as a deviation from a social norm or standard. The problems in accepting this definition are the difficulties in determining the exceptions and characteristics of 'normal' or the standard in question.

Several attempts have been presented in the aim of defining psychological abnormality. This essay will look at discussing these approaches.

Statistical infrequency is included in one of the definitions of psychological abnormality. The basic principle of...