Abnormal behaviour

Abnormal behaviour

Is behaviour that departs from the norm or is harmful or distressing to the individual or to those around them. Abnormal behaviours are usually those that in some way violate society’s ideas about what is an appropriate level of functioning. Different approaches within psychology have different views of the nature and origins of abnormal behaviour:

• behaviour therapies see abnormality as the development of maladaptive behaviour patterns established through the processes of classical and operant conditioning , and modelling
• biological models of abnormality see abnormal behaviour as being caused by either anatomical or biochemical problems in the brain
• cognitive therapies models stress the role of cognitive problems such as illogical thought processes and faulty assumptions about the world around us
• humanistic therapies models see abnormal behaviour resulting from blocks to an individual’s potential for self-growth and development
• psychodynamic models see abnormal behaviour as being caused by underlying psychological forces of which the person is probably unaware, often originating from childhood experiences
• socio-cultural models focus on the social and cultural origins of abnormal behaviour through a consideration of dysfunctional family systems that ‘reward’ and maintain abnormal behaviour, and social stress systems that create specific problems for their members and therefore increase the likelihood of abnormal functioning.

One of the problems of having abnormality defined within a particular perspective is that what is or is not abnormal depends very much on the perspective taken. Thus within psychoanalysis (a psychodynamic approach), homosexuality would be considered an abnormality, whereas in the behavioural approach, it would not. Many psychologists now subscribe to the view that people must first have a biological, psychological or socio-cultural predisposition to a particular form of abnormal behaviour which is then activated and maintained by psychological stress (the diathesis-stress paradigm explanation of abnormal behaviour).


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