Definitions of Abnormality

Topics: Normal distribution, Mental disorder, Abnormal psychology Pages: 9 (2078 words) Published: June 11, 2013
Diagnosis & Classification

Definitions of abnormality

What is abnormality? How can if be measured if it can be measured? The term Abnormal is defined as deviating from what is normal or usual. So what is normal? The word ‘normal’ usually refers to conformity to standard or regular patterns of behaviour. The concept of abnormality is essentially a label applied to behaviour that does not conform.

Statistical Infrequency.

Key ideas for this definition:
• A person’s thinking or behaviour is classified as abnormal if it is rare or statistically unusual. • Everyone in the population to a degree show many human characteristics. • Everybody who can be measured can be placed on to a dimensional scale. • These graphs are called normal distribution curves. They can measure Intelligence.

For example:

Psychological characteristics things are not so clear-cut to be put on a normal bar graph.  Let’s consider IQ (intelligence quotient).  Within a population this is normally distributed.  When plotted on a graph it assumes the familiar ‘bell-shaped’ curve. The average IQ in the UK is maintained at 100 with a standard deviation of 15.  For the innumerate amongst you that means in simple English that 67% of the population have an IQ of between 85 and 115 (one standard deviation below the average and one standard deviation above the average).By the time we reach 3 standard deviations below the norm, an IQ of 55 (3 x 15 =45 and 100 -45 =55), are you still with me, we are talking less than 1% of the population.  Surely we can consider these to be abnormal since they are so rare.  (

|Strengths of definition |Weakness of the definition. | |You have Evidence to back up the theory. |Requires the maintance of accurate data of the population as a whole. Too much data all changes very| |Easy to see if someone is abnormal- they can seek help faster. |quickly. | | |Doesn’t distinguish between desirable or infrequent. |

Violation of social norms
Key ideas for this definition:
• Social norms are a set of rules for behavior based on a set of moral and conventional standards within society. • Introduces the concept of what is desirable and expected in different circumstances and situations. • Considers behaviours that differ from the usual in society. • Social norm definition is a socially based definition and is explained by social contortionism and social identity theories. • Abnormal behaviour is defined as any behaviour that breaks social norms.

For example:
Bulling is not acceptable behaviour in today’s society as it can lead to low confidence or self-harming it can even lead to someone committing suicide.

Thomas Szasz (1972) ( believed that the concept of mental illness was manufactured to label people who break societal ‘rules’ and standard moral concepts. This opinion is in stark contrast to the currently held ‘medical model’. Szasz was the author of “the myth of mental illness”.

|Strengths of definition |Weakness of the definition. | |Once was seen as abnormal i.e., gay marriage may, over time become acceptable and vice versa. |Social norm changes over time. | |This social norm can be broken, which might be a good thing....

References: Abnormal Psychology.2013.[ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2013].
Home,2013. Home. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2013].
Abnormal Psychology. 2013. Abnormal Psychology. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2013].
Hill, G. (2009) As & A Level psychology, Oxford: Oxford university press, p.167.
R Gross, (2010). 'Psychological Abnormality: Definitions and Classifications '. In: (ed), Psychology, The Science of Mind and Behaviour. 6th ed. Dubai: Hodder Education.
Lipton and Simon. 2013 [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2013].
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