Three Definitions of Abnormality

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Three Definitions of Abnormality

1. Deviation from social norms

Abnormality can be defined as a deviation from social norms This means that we label people as abnormal if their behaviour is different from what we accept as the norms of society.

Some social norms are explicit, which means they are legal written laws. While other social norms are implicit and are unwritten, or unspoken rules in society. If people break these rules, then they are deviating away from social norms and therefore, could be labeled as abnormal.

This definition of abnormality can be applied to certain behaviours. For example, a type of behaviour that breaks implicit rules could be standing too close to another person in a face to face conversation, or dressing to a particular dress code. While explicit rule breaking can also include criminal behaviour.

According to this definition anyone who break a social norm is abnormal.


• Behaviour might deviate from social norms due to ‘eccentricity’ rather than abnormality. Therefore according to this definition people who break implicit social norms may be wrongly labelled abnormal. • Behaviour may appear to deviate from social norms because it has been taken out of context, rather than being due to abnormality. This is a problem because it may lead to individuals being wrongly identified as abnormal. • Social norms change over time and therefore it is problematic to determine abnormality as a deviation from social norms. Historically this definition has been wrongly applied to groups of individuals who are not abnormal but fail to meet the social norms of the society. • Social norms differ across cultures, therefore what is seen as abnormal in one culture would be normal in another culture due to their definition of the ‘norm’. This is a problem because it means that the definition cannot be…...

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