Psychology Essay

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Answers: LEVEL: AS PSYCHOLOGY – Abnormality 7. Definition of abnormality (30 minutes) (a) Outline three definitions of abnormality. (2 marks + 2 marks + 2 marks) Abnormality has been defined in a number of ways, including: unusual behaviour that is different from the norm; behaviour that does not conform to social expectations or demands; statistical infrequency; failure to function adequately; presence of pronounced psychological suffering or distress; deviation from ideal mental health. Outline any three and provide an example of each. (b) Describe limitations associated with attempts to define abnormality. (6 marks) Statistical infrequency: most people suffer psychological problems at some time in their lives hence psychological problems are statistically normal. Many psychological attributes are assumed to be normally distributed, e.g. IQ scores. However, very high IQs, which are statistically rare, are not likely to be considered abnormal whereas very low scores are. Deviation from social norms: Szasz (1972) suggested that psychopathology is manufactured in order to label people who do not conform to social norms or rules of morality. The American Psychiatric Society, for example, classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973. Social norms are specific to cultures, for example, British psychiatrists (being mainly male, white and middle class) may not be well prepared to understand the behaviour, emotions and motivations of individuals from different cultural and social backgrounds. This could account for why Afro-Caribbean immigrants have been up to seven times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia (Cochrane 1977). (c) Describe the behavioural model of abnormality. (6 marks) Emphasizes the role of environmental influences upon overt behaviour. Concepts such as mental illness are not used because mental
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