Abnormal Psychology

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The Nature of Psychopathology and Abnormal Psychology
The Diagnosis of Mental Disorders

Distinguishing Normal From Abnormal Psychology

Developmental Psychology is devoted to studying the origins and course of individual maladaptive in the context of normal growth process. Young Children are especially vulnerable to psychological problems for a number of reasons:

  • They do not have as complex and realistic a view of themselves and their world as they will have later- They have less self-understanding
  • They have not yet developed a stable sense of identity
  • They have not yet developed a clear understanding of what is expected of them and coping skills

The use of the four D’s can provide helpful guidelines in determining normal behavior from abnormal behavior in the following ways:

Deviance: Determining the degree that behaviors are deviant from the norm can be assisted through these of informal assessment such as interviews, observations, and symptom rating scales. More formal psychometric batteries like personality assessment. Classification systems can also provide clinicians with guidelines for evaluating the degree of deviance.

Dysfunction: Once a disorder is identified, the relative impact of the disorder on the individual’s functioning must be determined. Child clinicians may be interested in the degree of dysfunction in such areas as school performance (academic functioning) or social skills.

Distress: An area closely related to dysfunction is the dress of distress the disorder causes. Children often have difficulty articulating feelings and may provide little information to assist the clinician in determining distress. Interviews with parents and teachers can provide additional sources of information. Some disorders may present little distress for the individual concerned but prove very distressing to others.

Danger: In order to determine whether a given behavior places an individual at risk, two broad areas are evaluated: risk for self-harm and risk of harm to others. Historically, the focus has been on victimization and maltreatment of children (abuse or neglect) or the assessment of risk for self-harm (suicide intent). However, more recent events, such as the 1999 Columbine shootings and increased awareness of bullying, have increased concerns regarding children as perpetrators of harm. Accordingly, increased emphasis has been placed on methods of identifying potentially dangerous children and conducting effective threat assessments.

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