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3) Definition of Abnormality – Deviation From Ideal Mental Health

Marie Jahoda introduced this definition of abnormality asking why, if we can see that someone is physically unhealthy, why can’t we do the same for mental health?

Jahoda came up with a list of 6 criteria you need to meet in order to not be “abnormal”:

– Self attitudes – Having high self-esteem and a personally identity

– Personal growth and self actualisation – How much you develop to you full capabilities

– Integration – Being able to cope with stressful situations

– Autonomy – Being independent and able to look after yourself

– An accurate perception of reality – seeing life as it really is, not in a way no one else perceives it.

– Mastery of the environment – being able to adjust to new environments.

If you lack any of these things Jahoda said you are abnormal


– Are these criteria achievable? – Most of the criteria above are very demanding; can anyone really match all 6 areas? If not then we are all abnormal!

– Is mental health the same as physical health? In order for this criteria to work, the presumption that we can measure mental health in the same way as physical health must be true; but can we? Normally a physical illness is caused by one of two specific things, however mental illness could be caused by an incredibly large number of things, so can we really treat the two as similar?

– Cultural Relativism – Most of the criteria are only applicable to Western people. For example self-actualisation is the idea that you as an individual improve as much as you can, so in a Western culture concerned with individuals this is okay. But other cultures are much more society based so aren’t to concerned with reaching individual’s potential, but societies potential as a whole. Therefore many of the people in this society would be classed as abnormal. This is the same for many of the other criteria.



About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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