Describe and Evaluate one or more definitions of Abnormality
One definition of Abnormality is deviation of Social Norms. Social norms are accepted ways of behaving within a society. They are the unwritten rules that members of a society regard as being normal and acceptable, and any deviation from them can be regarded as abnormal behaviour. Examples include ways of dressing, such as women wearing feminine clothing and men wearing masculine clothing, not appearing naked in public, saying 'please' and 'thank you', opening doors for women and elderly people etc. Social norms may, however, vary between cultures - clothing is an example of this as some African tribes wear very little clothing whereas Western cultures keep certain areas of the body covered at all times. The problem with defining abnormality as deviation from social norms is that probably the majority of behaviour that deviates from social norms is unlikely to represent mental illness. Eccentric ...view middle of the document...
Another definition of Abnormality is Failure to Function Adequately. Rosenhan & Seligman (1989) suggested that psychological abnormality should be defined as a range of characteristics that suggest a person is failing to function adequately in their daily life. Essentially this means that they may not be able to adapt to life healthily, may be experiencing personal distress, may show irrational or unpredictable behaviour, or onlookers may be uncomfortable when observing their behaviour. The fewer abnormal features a person displays, then the more normal they can be considered. Observer discomfort is behaviour that is governed by unspoken rules and common understandings between people. When these rules are broken, for example standing too close to another person or not making eye contact when conversing, then observers notice them and may feel uncomfortable. Personal distress is when people are suffering psychological abnormality often, report they are in discomfort or are suffering. But this does not always mean they are abnormal however, as a normal grief reaction would feature suffering often to a severe extent. Maladaptive behaviour is being able to adapt appropriately to new situations enables a person to reach their personable goals in life, for example to succeed at work, to have a good relationship, etc. Being unable to adapt would prevent this and so could be considered abnormal. However, it may be that the inability to adapt is caused by lack of knowledge or understanding about a situation rather than by psychological abnormality. Irrational or unexpected behaviours can also often be regarded as abnormal.
Limitations of Failure to Function Adequately would be that behaviour must be in context before it can be judged as failure to function adequately. For example, going on a hunger strike would cause personal distress and observer discomfort but it is not necessarily psychologically abnormal. Another limitation would be that failing to function adequately may be due to situational pressures rather than psychological abnormality. If a person loses their job and is unable to get a new one then they may be enable to look after their family, but this may be due to the economic situation rather than because they are unable to adapt to the situation.