Defining Abnormality Paper Sample

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Middlebury College
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There are typical challenges encountered while defining and classifying normal and abnormal behaviors. This challenges include the following: culture, ethnicity, situational contexts, historical relativism, politics, the developing theory of knowledge, the mind or body, sexual practices together with preferences, age as well as religion. This paper, in regard to defining abnormality, it raises an argument on three of these aspects; culture, sexual preferences and gender or practices as well as religion. It will also address the situational factors in determining the classification of abnormal behaviors.


In regard to the various factors contributing to bias relating to psychological setting, religion plays a fundamental function. Religion is two-way traffic, it can affect the bias of the client or an expert while diagnosing normal and abnormal behavior. A professional duty is to select the religious concepts they personally hold so as to come up with a universal judgment or diagnosis. Many forms of judgment on Christianity faith can be displayed. For instance, a typical Christian counselor will encourage couples experiencing difficulties in marriage to persevere as a result of the Christianity faith which considers divorces to be sinful. Similarly, a patient with concerns on marriage may need to remain stagnant in unhealthy marital situations as a result of the religious beliefs they hold. Spirituality and religion acts as the elements of historicism of psychotherapy and cultural diversity. Therefore, with regards to the psychological sciences and religion, faith is entirely inter-contradictory and has feuded in the whole historical perspective (Harris, 2011).

According to Harris (2011), there seems to be a religiousness gap amongst different psychologists. Majority of these individuals have shunned religion as well as viewed faith to be devious and generally irrelevant. As a consequence, social deviance is designated as behaviors falling outside the normal constructs of the conventionally accepted behaviors (Hansell & Damour, 2008). There are typical religious tendencies and rituals falling in the category of behaviors regarded as deviant. Faiths regarding aspects such as angelic encounters, speaking in tongues, stigma, the cross signs as well as the body and blood consummation of a figure being worshipped, would personally be assessed as being deviant socially from various behaviors in several realms. However, it is confined to the constructs of a particular tradition of the religion as being generally normal.

Gender and Sexual Preferences or Practices

These aspects may be observed to be either normal or abnormal in respect on how you reflect what is happening with an individual. Based on the book "Abnormal Psychology, three primary concepts regarding sexual behaviors are in existence. This include continuum of the abnormal and normal behavior, cultural and historical relativism and the importance of context. Continuum denotes a condition that perpetuates a disorder leading to a significant impairment or distress (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Cultural relativism manifests when sexual behaviors which are ordinary in the cultural contexts that an individual is introduced to. The relevance of context is that the behavior concerning sex is to be regarded inappropriate and abnormal in a specific context and may seem normal within another context (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Considering various concepts of sexual dysfunction relative to the time when males and females explore their bodies in a situation of what looks sexual but contrary in the real sense, The book Childhood Sexuality: Discerning Healthy from Abnormal Sexual Behaviours," outlines all that is vital for juveniles understanding their bodies. The primary drawback with this assumption is that most parents consider this as problematic rather than part of the development process. A child may commence touching, playing with his or her genitals beginning from two years and may proceed to explore this activity until the age of twelve years. When the children of both gender when they visualize themselves, there should be nothing to worry concerning the behaviour. Besides speaking to your child concerning the place and time relevant for exploration of their bodies is vital (Thanasiu, 2004).

If parents are found in situations where children are now discovering their bodies, the parents should just remain calm and ensure that there is no subjectivity of the negative issue. However, it is the responsibility of a parent to have a look of distinct signs of abnormal behaviors such as masturbation, inserting of objects in the genitals and anal regions. When such behaviours are observed, there is need to discuss the behavior with an expert as this may be regarded abnormal (Thanasiu, 2004).

Some individuals depicts some impression as if they are not attracted to the opposite genders. According to Freuds idea concerning the issue, he points out that this aspect develops typically as a result of excessive masturbation during their early years. This is traced back when homosexuality was grouped in the DSM-II and listed as a disorder related to the mind, however, in 1973 the notion was nullified (Hansell & Damour, 2008). People across the world in the modern times have underpinned different individuals displaying distinct sexual desires such as attraction to same-sex, lack of sexual gratification or change of gender. Some may display this behavior due to sexual disorders but others have their own solid reasons. For instance, some females do change their gender not because of sexual preferences but due to gender identity and related issues. There are some ladies who feel attracted to same sexes and would wish to stay with them. However, their cultural backgrounds impede and condemn the act. As a consequence, they prefer changing their gender so as get accommodated (Thanasiu, 2004).


Culture is amongst the greatest challenge that one experiences while assessing specific patients or clients (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The major reason concerning this is that the disorder is classified distinctively by people from different cultures. Some cultures allow for varied or broad behavior diversities as compared to others. Additionally, in such cultures, some behaviors are not only categorized as abnormal but also classified to be entirely extraordinary or unique. As a consequence, the presence of diverse cultures with distinct perspectives on our day to day lives makes it impossible to incorporate fixed standards that may be used in defining and classifying normal and abnormal behaviors.

Typically, every society constitutes the cultural standards that outlines the normal and abnormal behaviors. In some cultures, a person is designated to be psychologically disordered when they go contrary or violates the societal norms (Harris, 2011). Cultural deviance acts as a drawback in the identification and classification of normal and abnormal behavior since the behaviors classified pose detrimental effects on an individual and also effects the society as a whole (Harris, 2011). The behaviors that violate the welfare of the society are primarily regarded abnormal whereas those contrary, are said to be normal.

Several psychological disorders pose substantial effects to an individual but may pose limited effects to the society particularly during the early stages of the disorder. It is only when the behavior manifests itself at its peak is when it is noticed by the whole society. As a result, cultural deviance alone cannot be used to classify normal and abnormal behavior since the behavior classification is not confined to the effects they pose on a person but rather effects experienced by the society at large (Thanasiu, 2004).

The situational factors affecting the classification of abnormal behaviors

Typical situational factors that may affects abnormal behaviour classification include religion, sexual orientation, gender, and the body or mind. Since some behaviors are immensely abnormal, initially the continuum in respect to abnormality and normality must be put into consideration (Hansell and Damour, 2008). As a consequence, the continuum between the abnormalities of factors like religion, culture and gender must be given priority before behavior being defined as abnormal. For instance, if a behavior is causing distress then it can be classified as abnormal, although a factor that may perpetuate distress to person A may not cause similar condition to person B. The first person may be diagnosed having an abnormal behavior based on their distresses; whereas the other individual would not. It is believed that the universal behaviors which are abnormal and related to feelings are entirely an exaggeration of normal feelings and behaviors (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Issues like culture, sexual orientation, behavior as well as religion are entirely vital while classifying disorders and abnormal behaviors. Gender plays a critical role as there is distinctiveness in the ways females and males are visualised in the society. For example, the females responsible for caring homes, children as well as relationships even during their time of working. As a consequence, depression in females is considered to be more than twice of the males. This is also evident as a matter of fact that ladies are often under excessive stress due to their roles in the society.


There are several challenges underlying the process of defining and classifying the abnormal and normal behaviours as addressed in the entire paper. Therefore, for effective classification of abnormality to be achieved, it is critical to analyse the factors within a given situation that an individual is experiencing.



Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal Psychology (2nd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Harris, K. A. (2011). Clinical judgment faith bias: The impact of faith and multicultural competence on clinical judgment. (Ball State University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 389.

Thanasiu, P. L., (2004). Childhood Sexuality: Discerning Healthy From Abnormal Sexual Behaviors, Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Oct2004, Vol. 26 Issue 4, p309-319.


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