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Problems Defining Abnormality

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Problems Defining Abnormality Defining abnormality is no easy task. There are 4 definitions discussed in Cardwell <& Flanagan (2003) and each has its merits and disadvantages. The first is statistical infrequency. Abnormality is defined in terms of the frequency any given behaviour is said to exist in a given social group. For example, foot size can be averaged so that everyone can be seen to fall within a certain size. People whose foot size is much smaller or larger fall outside the average and are therefore by definition - abnormal. This definition is suggesting that abnormal behaviour is somehow measurable, and that behaviour can be easily grouped in terms of numbers. This is not the case. There are many behaviours that would fall outside the average for the population, shoe size being one example, where a person would not be classified as abnormal just because their feet were larger or smaller than average. ...read more.


Each separate culture has its own unique set of behavioural patterns that determine that culture. For example, men in the UK don't really ever kiss each other on the cheeks, but in France, it is quite common as a form of greeting. In Arabic cultures men may often hold hands, yet it is unheard of here in England. Another way of defining abnormality is failure to function adequately. Here the focus is on the individual and his ability to cope with daily living. If an individual is unable to deal with daily life, they may become isolated, unkempt and may avoid the attention of others. Also the individual may display unusual or bizarre behaviours that others may feel uncomfortable with, for example, smearing faecal matter over themselves. ...read more.


This is particularly true from a cross-cultural perspective. Since behaviour is so diverse across culture, it could be argued that such criterion is inherently racist. Again, there is an element where judgment, based on set values, determines normality for everyone. These four definitions of abnormality are not on their own, all encompassing. They reflect thinking and ideas about human behaviour which may or may not be easily classified. Usually a person is considered abnormal if they fall into all the criteria and do not posses characteristics essential to be classified as normal according to Jahoda. Culture plays an important role in determining what is considered abnormal as well. All these definitions tend to be based on a white middle-class set of values that make up the Western psychiatric service, so therefore it may not be possible to account for all variations in culturally specific behaviour. End - 730 words. ...read more.

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