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5) The Psychodynaminc Model of Abnormality

This model was put forward by Sigmund Freud to explain abnormality. He stated that abnormality was caused by “unresolved conflicts” in the subconscioud which are then displaced by abnormal behaviour.

He believed the personality is made of the conscious and the preconscious. The preconscious is then made of the Superego (the sense of right and wrong), the Ego (The rational part of a personality) and the Id (the childish, irrational part of our personality).

Throughout our lives our Id, Ego and Superego are in constant conflict, and this can cause anxiety. To reduce this anxiety the Ego uses “defence mechanisms” to push this anxiety from our conscious to our subconscious. Examples of these defence mechanisms include:

Repression – putting unpleasant thoughts, such as bad childhood experiences in the subconscious

Projection – blaming someone else for a problem

Denial – saying something bad never happened

Displacement – venting your anger elsewhere

Regression – Behaving like a child

All of these defence mechanisms are unconscious, we don’t think about doing them. But they can have bad affects which could cause abnormal behaviour. Although we might not realise it, the negative thoughts and memories we have used defence mechanisms to suppress are still present in our subconscious, but instead of them we often show abnormal behaviour to replace them.



+ It has face value

+ It is a unique approach in suggesting that childhood is important

+ Freud was a pioneer – Freud was one of the first to highlight the important of psychological factors

+ The person is not responsible for their disorder – it’s hidden from them in their subconscious


– Ethnically Bias – The model is based upon Western ideologies and culture, it may therefore not be applicable to other cultures.

– Sexist – Many psychologists say that Freud’s work is sexist as is mostly concentrates on men and the hardships they endure which could cause abnormality. Freud himself conceded his work may be sexist.

– Lack of research evidence – Freud’s theory is very hard to prove or disprove. This is because there are so many different variables that the psychodynamic model says are possible, so you cannot say one behaviour means that his theory is definitely right or wrong.

– Abstract concepts – The psychodynamic model uses very abstract concepts, for example, the Id, Ego and Superego. These are hard to define and test because they are in the subconscious, so they could be present or not, it is hard to say!


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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