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Example Answer for Question 13 Paper 2: AS Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)

AS, A-Level

Last updated 22 May 2017

Section B - Psychopathology

Question 13: Outline and Evaluate [8 Marks] - Definitions of Abnormality

Suggested Answer: Two definitions of abnormality include statistical infrequency and and failure to function adequately (FFA). According to the statistical infrequency definition, a behaviour is seen as abnormal if it is statistically uncommon or not seen very often in society. For example, the average IQ is approximately 100 and 95% of the population have an IQ in the region of 70 to 130. However, a small percentage of the population (approximately 5%) have an IQ below 70 or above 130 and these people are statistically uncommon and therefore abnormal (according to this definition).

One problem with the concept of statistical infrequency is the issue of misdiagnosis. Certain behaviours are statistically common; for example, approximately 10% of the population will experience depression at some point making this behaviour ‘normal’, technically. On the other hand, certain behaviours - for example, high IQ - are statistically uncommon and therefore considered abnormal despite their desirable nature. This is a serious drawback of adopting the statistical infrequency definition of abnormality as certain behaviours (both favourable and less favourable) may be ‘incorrectly’ diagnosed.

According to the FFA definition, a person is considered abnormal if they are unable to cope with the demands of everyday life and live independently in society. Furthermore, to be classified as abnormal, a person’s behaviour should cause personal suffering and distress because of their failure to cope. However, they may also cause distress or discomfort to other people who observe their behaviour.

One weakness of the FFA definition is the notion of individual differences. For example, one person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may exhibit excessive rituals that prevent them from functioning adequately, as they constantly miss work; whereas, another person may suffer from the same excessive rituals, but find time to complete their rituals and always attend work on time. Therefore, despite the same psychological and behavioural symptoms, each person would be diagnosed differently, thus questioning the validity of this definition. However, some psychologists argue that this is a strength because the definition takes into account the subjective personal experiences of the patient. This definition considers the thoughts and feelings of the person experiencing the issue and does not simply make a judgement, without taking the personal viewpoint of the sufferer into consideration. This suggests that the failure to function definition is a useful definition for assessing psychopathological behaviour as it takes into account these individual differences. 

Please Note: These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam. These answers are not endorsed or approved by AQA.

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