Defining Normal and Abnormal Behavior

I would like the entire class to identify behaviors that you consider “normal” and “abnormal.”  Please post a response to this message that includes at least three “normal” and three “abnormal” behaviors and the reasoning for your classifications

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What is normal? Is it majority rules, is it subjective, is it relative; or is normality dictated by some code, some moral code external to ourselves. I don’t know. I just thought it was important to question what is normal before we start espousing our standards of normality. To the question though, I guess I would consider a marriage relationship, actively seeking one’s God, and spending time with family normal behaviors. Conversely, abnormal behaviors might include suicide, extreme depression, and hearing voices. When I classify these behaviors as normal or abnormal I am mainly pulling from my own experiences. For instance, in some Islamic sects suicide (suicide bombers) might be perfectly normal. But in my experience suicide is abnormal behavior. Likewise, I have had bouts with mild depression in my life, brought on by life events, but I have never experienced extreme depression. Although I will say that depression is becoming more and more normal in the United States these days. Also, I have never heard voices myself, but in many domestic religions speaking with God is common. For me, normal behaviors are exemplified by my everyday experiences; marriage, God, family. That is a very narrow view of normality though.

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Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology (4 th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

3 thoughts on “Defining Normal and Abnormal Behavior

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    1. Normal is one of those words that implies comparison. In fact, I would go so far as to say that majority opinion constitutes normality from a societal perspective. Meaning, whatever most people are doing is deemed normal by most people. I think that the word “normal” has gotten a bad rap as of late. There seems to be a backlash against conformity and uniformity among younger people. I for one think that this trend shift is long overdue. I am not an advocate of any kind rigid obedience to majority rule. Every person should be themselves and define normal for themselves. However, there is a much simpler understanding of normal that is not so laden with emotion or subtext; and it is simply: whatever most people are doing. The rub seems to come in when someone takes the next and says that because a behavior has been defined as normal (whatever most people are doing), that this implies that everyone should be doing the same thing. That is not the case, nor do I think conformity to what most people are doing is necessary in order to define what most people are doing (i.e. normal).

      Definitions of Normal:

      • conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
      • serving to establish a standard.
      • the average or mean: Production may fall below normal.
      • the standard or type.

      I would say that we overlook the first definition of normal and really use the bottom three definitions as the standard framework for understanding the word “normal”. Normality is not conformity to a standard or adherence to a common type or natural or of things; but an unbiased standard of more than 50% of people do this. What would you think about such a bare-bones understanding of normal?


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