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''Attempts to define abnormality are always limited by cultural differences'' Outline and consider how definition of abnormality may be influenced by cultural differences.

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Introduction

''Attempts to define abnormality are always limited by cultural differences'' Outline and consider how definition of abnormality may be influenced by cultural differences. (18marks) The four ways of trying to define abnormality all have their limitations. One of these limitations comes under Cultural Relativism. Culture is the learned and shared behaviours of members of a society. It includes social norms, values, attitudes and beliefs. These are all shared by that culture. This makes it difficult to define psychological abnormality in terms that can be universally applied. It is difficult to define abnormality in different cultures because each culture has its own ideas about what is normal and what is abnormal. People can only be classed as having a mental disorder only if it is classed as being a disorder in all cultures. Although me may think these people are abnormal, in their culture things like these are perfectly normal therefore we cannot call it abnormal behaviour. Homosexuality used to be classed as a mental disorder but ceased to be categorised as abnormal until 1980 with the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). So we can see that with time and different cultures specifications of abnormalities can change. The first method is defining abnormality is statistical in frequency. ...read more.

Middle

Ideas of mental health range between different cultures. In Sambia of New Guinea male youths are taught that females are poison and the males engage in prescribed unlimited fellatio. Also on the Island of Java, football is played with a ball, then socked in petrol and set alight. Deviation from social norms is based upon society's rules for behaviour, which are also known as moral standards. Abnormality can be seen as breaking society's standards or norms. In Russia people have been imprisoned if they did not follow a particular political belief. So we can see that abnormality has been used for social control. To our Western culture this doesn't happen very often if not, not at all. In Malinowski's (1929) culture bones of the dead relatives are cleaned and worn as ornaments, and this is social norm for Trobriand islanders but not for our Western culture, as we would see this as being very strange as we do not do it. On the plains of North America 'The Sun Dance' is held every summer for a period of four days and four nights. During this period the North Americans go without food and water, and dance throughout. The purpose was to secure support from the super natural, and if you hear voices from the Gods you are seen to be special (although as we see this is being on of the symptoms of schizophrenia in our Western Culture, people in North America sees this as being perfectly normal). ...read more.

Conclusion

Bizarreness: this example would also be seen as being bizarre to our Western Culture. The Trobriand people have two of the characteristics that define abnormality, but to them, they are perfectly sane to do that sort of thing. However psychological problems happen among minority groups, as the conditions they live in can be stressful. Fernado points this out alongside Cochrane. Cochrane points out that racism and prejudice can have an impact on their psychological well-being. Migration causes psychological problems for the minority groups as conditions are extremely horrendous, and the change they have to go through is also great. There is also much discrimination from racist people and all these cause mental health implications for new migrants, but their problems are mistaken as attributed to ethnicity. As well as there being cultures, there are also subcultures. Cochrane 1977 found out that Afro Caribbean's are 2 and 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than whites, but now we know this is because it's normal to hear these voices in their culture. This may be because of discrimination and stereotyping i.e. that black people are more violent. In conclusion, we can see that it is hard to define abnormality within different cultures as abnormality is seen differently in different cultures throughout all the definitions of abnormality. Also the white population set the social norms and so deviations are considered abnormal, so there is a Euro centric bias. Julie Sutton ...read more.

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