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The psychology of abnormality has progressed dramatically throughout the years. The primal days of superstitiously viewing deviant behavior and attitudes are long gone. The idea that abnormality is caused by witchcraft, curses, or bad luck has given way to clear set models that explain the issue in hypothetical terms. Six models are specifically utilized to promote knowledge and propose therapeutic options. The biological model, behavioral model, psychodynamic model, social, cultural model, sociocultural model, and cognitive model are among them. Collectively, the models eliminate any sort of uncertainty or speculation by creating an awareness of various societal behaviors.  The definition of abnormal behavior has evolved in the same measure as its models. The definitions of abnormal behavior were weak in the past and depended on the authoritative figures to determine them. However, in time, the definition of abnormal behavior is now vivid in such a way that anyone can pick out abnormal behaviors in individuals as they unfold. Abnormal behavior may be defined by considering the individual's behavior or the society's definition of the individual performances. Regarding the individual performances, it is abnormal if it involves a deviation from an individual's normal conduct, deviates from the ideal personality stability of the individual, and deviates from the average or personal mode of an individual within a group. Further, concerning the societal definition, abnormal behavior denotes the departure of an individual from standardized practices, norms, and the approved ways to perform the roles allocated by the society (Chapter 5, N.d). The societal definition is different from the societal one since it is subjective to the individual's behavior from the society's viewpoint and does not consider the person's stability. Following these definitions of abnormality, it has become better to understand it using the six main models of abnormality.

The biological model of the phenomenon views it as a condition caused by the malfunctioning of certain areas in the brain and genetic materials. The model explains the different components of the brain including the neurons, axons, and the synapse. One neuron receives information from other neurons and axons through its smaller components, the deadlines. The axons contain the synapse, which is a space that allows the release of chemicals known as neurotransmitters (Sue et al., 2015). The process enhances the transmission of impulses to the brain. However, imbalances in neurotransmitters’ release cause mental disorders which are visible through abnormal behavior. Therefore, the biological model holds that certain medications block or fuel the release of transmitters thereby eliminating abnormality.

The model holds that the abnormal behaviors are fostered from the inside of an individual through metal dysfunction or genetic inheritance. However, regarding genetics or inheritance of disorders that lead to abnormal symptoms, the individual must interact with the external environment which triggers it. The biological model has been used extensively to explain delinquency. For instance, when a child is stressed by either internal or external factors, they might get stressed up. The stress leads to abnormal production of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body cope with the abnormal situation, which then increases anxiety that leads to delinquent behavior.

The psychodynamic model also explains abnormal behavior explicitly. The model emphasizes the importance of unconscious conflicts that increase the level of anxiety in individuals. Early childhood experiences are particularly important as they determine their unconscious conflicts that affect them as they grow up and even later on in their lives. The model, therefore, ensures that the unconscious conflicts that a person in undergoing should be determined and treated to eliminate the abnormal behaviors (Stone, 1995). Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is a psychoanalysis model used to explain delinquency. It states that each person must go through the Id, Ego and the Superego developmental stages to conform to the social expectations. Deviance, or in this case, delinquency for children crops up when the individual does not advance through the three stages successfully.

The third model of abnormality is the behavioral model. It argues that abnormal behavior is learned. It involves two theories that include the Classical conditioning and the operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves the fusing of a neutral behavior with an unconditioned one. The two form an unconditioned response, which does not have much effect at first. However, the continuous pairing of neutral response to the unconditioned one leads to its weakening and development of a conditioned response which is negative. Operant conditioning, on the other hand, explains abnormal behavior as voluntary (Sue et al., 2015). The individual chooses to engage in the behavior voluntarily, more so if it yields positive feelings. Moreover, the abnormal behavior may be learned through observation. Using this model, delinquency may be explained as learned through interaction, done voluntarily or learned by observing it from other people.

The cognitive model, which is the fourth of the six regards abnormal behavior as a result of the thought process. People have varying control of thoughts which determine their emotional state and the subsequent behaviors. It is therefore used to help the patients look into their thoughts, emotional and reactions, thereby helping them formulate thoughts that are close to the reality. Bell’s A-B-C theory in where A represents the events, B denotes belief and C stands for consequent behavior is ideal for an explanation of delinquency (Sue et al., 2015). For instance, the event could be lateness to school. The belief may be that the child will undergo a harsh punishment leading to increased anxiety. Consequently, he may decide to skip school that day and spend the day hiding in the neighborhood smoking marijuana to ease his anxiety. The behavior amounts to delinquency and can be understood and responded to through the A-B-C theory.

The fifth model is the Humanistic approaches. It establishes that an individual’s behavior is informed by his viewpoint hence the important of understanding it. It also recognizes the importance of individual freedoms and achievements. By understanding a person’s point of view, one can know the motivations behind the abnormal behavior. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is particularly an important model to explain abnormal behaviors. It states that individuals are on a journey of self-actualization and the impediments to it cause anxiety and distress in the individuals (Sue et al., 2015). They are poised to achieving the highest needs and may undergo various reasons to ensure they achieve it. For instance, a school going child, experiencing bullying may carry a knife to school and stab the bully the next time he returns. The child is after self-actualization, which is this case is safety, the basic need each person has. The delinquent behavior is understandable from the child's viewpoint as explained by the humanistic model.

Finally, the socio-cultural model is also important in understanding abnormal behavior. It views behavior as subject to the society and cultural contexts they experience. The contexts may present various stresses for individuals thereby the importance of interpreting abnormal behavior in its social and cultural context. For instance, when discussing the issue of delinquency, numerous studies have found it as the highest in poor families that come from certain neighborhoods (Pasamanick, Knobloch, & Lilienfeld, 1956). The abnormal behavior is closely associated with the social context of upbringing. Delinquency is like a culture since people start engaging in crime at tender ages.

Conclusively, the various models of abnormality are important in understanding it. They consider different things in a patient's life to determine the cause of the abnormal behavior and respond to it appropriately. The models collectively foster the understanding of abnormal behavior through the different functions of the human body in the environment. While each of the models has its weaknesses, they work in complementarity to ensure that abnormal behavior is understood and that helpful; responses are given to the individuals exhibiting them. Ultimately, they look into the cognitive, behavioral, societal and cultural, humanistic, psychodynamic, and biological constructs of the individual to foster understanding of abnormality.


Chapter 5: Abnormal behavior, personal disorders, and culture. (n.d.). In Society and personality disorders.

Pasamanick, B., Knobloch, H., & Lilienfeld, A. M. (1956). Socioeconomic status and some precursors of neuropsychiatric disorder. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 26(3), 594.

Stone, M. H. (1979). A psychoanalytic approach to abnormalities of temperament. American journal of psychotherapy.

Sue, D., Sue, D. W., Sue, S., & Sue, D. M. (2015). Understanding abnormal behavior. Cengage Learning.

April 19, 2023

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