Evaluation of concepts of normality and abnormality
The concept of normality and abnormality is very important in Abnormal Psychology. But, the Concepts of normality and abnormality applicable to human behavior are always relative terms.
The two major criteria for normality and abnormality are as follow:
First Criteria:- Deviation from ideal mental health: It indicates a desirable state of perfection in the individual. In other words, it implies optimal rather than reasonable state of personality and behaviour. It observes that optimal behaviors being performed by any individual is normal range of behavior. But, different scientists have described the characteristics of an ideal person in different ways. E.g., according to Jahoda an individual with ideal level of mental health should have Positive attitude toward self (e.g., certitude, acceptance of self, and people with their merits and demerits etc.), Growth, development and self-actualization (i.e., fulfilling our highest level of potential), Psychic integration (i.e., good coping mechanisms to resist stress), Personal autonomy (i.e., decisiveness, dependence on personal resources rather than others'), Realistic perception (i.e., perceiving self and others realistically and optimistically), and Environmental mastery (i.e., to be contented with all areas of life and self efficacy). Similarly, Allport has described that the ideal mental health is characterized by extension of self, warm relationship with others, self-acceptance, realistic perception, self-objectification, unifying philosophy of life and standing beyond the reach of populace. However, some of these terms are not properly defined Allport himself, as well as, the meaning of terms differs from scientist to scientist. Carl Rogers has mentioned that clear expression of experience, existential living, organismic trusting, experiential freedom and creativity are the features of fully functioning person. However, perfect, unique and distinct behaviours are not performed and practiced by common or majority of population. Thus, majority of the population would be considered as abnormal.
Second Criteria:- Failure to function adequately: According to this criterion, temporal adjustment on different developmental milestones are considered to be normal behaviour, otherwise the same must be abnormal. This viewpoint is based on the model of psychosocial development propounded by Erick Erikson. Although this model helps us in understanding normal and healthy development across life span, but, there are several examples showing poor and inadequate achievement of developmental stones in initial stages of development, however, adequate or excelling performance in later stages of development in life. Examples are biographies of Thomas Edison, Bill Gates etc.