The Four Main Approaches to Defining Abnormality
The statistical approach to defining abnormality analyses data
collected from a population of people, and highlights rare and
un-typical behaviour, which is then labelled abnormal.
For a certain behaviour to be labelled ‘normal’ in a statistical point
of view, it needs to be an average behaviour performed by the
population in question. This is why labelling behaviours from culture
to culture and place-to-place is very hard, as different places have
different standards and morals to which you are expected to abide by.
To statistically define a behaviour as ‘abnormal’, the percentage of
people in a population exhibiting this particular behaviour must be
10% or less.
Evaluating The Statistical Approach.
One criticism of the statistical approach is that it overlooks the
opposite behaviours to abnormal behaviours. E.g. being very unhappy or
severely depressed is seen as being abnormal, but is being very happy
all the time normal? According to the statistical approach, being
happy all the time is seen as the desired and normal behaviour. In
other words, it ignores desired levels of the behaviour, or a median
value in the scale of normality and abnormality.
Due to high levels of some disorders and behaviours in some
populations, things like chicken pox, anxiety and depression are
statistically ‘normal’, but is this right, or just a fault in the
method of the statistical approach?
There are also problems with taking averages of behaviours from whole
populations and then trying to relate them to specific groups (E.g.
ages or genders, or even different countries) because in different
cultures and age groups, different behaviours are acceptable. For
example: a child of 2 years old seen sucking his/her thumb is seen as
normal, but for a boy of 16 years old to do the is abnormal. Different
cultures and countries also have different tolerances and views for
what is a normal behaviour, like laws on smoking and drinking alcohol.
One last criticism of the statistical approach is that it does not
consider the influence of an individual’s behaviour on others.
Describing The Deviation From Social Norms Approach.
The deviation from social norms approach suggests that you can label
behaviours normal or abnormal using certain standards of social
behaviour. For example; in Japan, when greeting someone it is custom
(normal) to lower your head as a sign of respect, but if you were not
to do this you would be labelled abnormal or in this case,
disrespectful. In other words, not doing what everyone else is doing
is seen as abnormal.
In our society, people that lack conscience and behave aggressively
towards other people without feeling guilty are deemed to be abnormal.
To support the deviation from social norms approach, it has...