Can a long-standing pattern of deviant behaviour be considered abnormal? Elaborate.
The first approach views abnormal behaviour as a deviation from social norms. Many psychologists have stated that ‘abnormal’ is simply a label that is given to a behaviour which is deviant from social expectations. Abnormal behaviour, thoughts and emotions are those that differ markedly from a society’s ideas of proper functioning. Each society has norms, which are stated or unstated rules for proper conduct. Behaviours, thoughts and emotions that break societal norms are called abnormal.
A society’s norms grow from its particular culture its history, values, institutions, habits, skills, technology, and arts. Thus, a society whose culture values competition and assertiveness may accept aggressive behaviour, whereas one that emphasises cooperation and family values (such as in India) may consider aggressive behaviour as unacceptable or even abnormal. A society’s values may change over time, causing its views of what is psychologically abnormal to change as well. Serious questions have been raised about this definition. It is based on the assumption that socially accepted behaviour is not abnormal, and that normality is nothing more than conformity to social norms.
The second approach views abnormal behaviour as maladaptive. Many psychologists believe that the best criterion for determining the normality of behaviour is not whether society accepts it but whether it fosters the well-being of the individual and eventually of the group to which s/he belongs. Well-being is not simply maintenance and survival but also includes growth and fulfilment, i.e. the actualisation of potential, which you must have studied in Maslow’s need hierarchy theory. According to this criterion, conforming behaviour can be seen as abnormal if it is maladaptive, i.e. if it interferes with optimal functioning and growth. For example, a student in the class prefers to remain silent even when s/he has questions in her/his mind. Describing behaviour as maladaptive implies that a problem exists; it also suggests that vulnerability in the individual, inability to cope, or exceptional stress in the environment have led to problems in life.