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Example Answer for Question 19 Paper 1: A Level Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)


Last updated 25 Apr 2018

Section D – Psychopathology: Q19 [16 Marks]

According to the Failure to Function Adequately (FFA) definition, a person is considered abnormal if they are unable to cope with the demands of everyday life (e.g. social and/or occupational) 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. Therefore, according to this definition, Rob could be considered abnormal because his symptoms are causing an inability to cope with everyday life as he is finding it difficult to ‘complete his homework’. Furthermore, Rob’s symptoms are also causing distress or discomforted, as ‘his parents and teachers’ have noticed his anxiety.

One strength of the FFA definition is that is takes into account the subjective personal experiences of Rob. This definition considers the thoughts and feelings of Rob and the issues he is facing and does not simply make a judgement based on a pre-defined list of symptoms. This suggests that the FFA definition is a useful tool for assessing psychopathological behaviour.

However, one weakness of the FFA definition is the issue of individual differences. For example, one person who hears voices may be unable to function adequately; whereas, another person may suffer from the same symptoms, but function perfectly well. Therefore, despite the same psychological and behavioural symptoms, each person would be diagnosed differently according to this definition, thus questioning the validity of this definition.

Jahoda (1958) took a different approach to defining abnormality, suggesting that abnormal behaviour should be defined by the absence of particular (ideal) characteristics. In other words, behaviours which move away (deviate) from ideal mental health. Jahoda outlined a series of principles, including: having an accurate view of reality; being able to integrate and resist stress; and being able to master your environment (love, friendships, work, leisure time, etc.) Therefore, if an individual does not demonstrate one of these criteria, they would be classified as abnormal according to this definition. It could be argued that Rob does not have an accurate view of reality as he is hearing voices which are not present. Furthermore, he seems to be unable to resist stress as his parents and teachers have noted that he is anxious, and he is unable to master the environment, in particular his work, as his symptoms are preventing him from completing his homework. Consequently, Rob would be seen as abnormal, according to this definition.

One strength of Jahoda’s definition is that it takes a positive and holistic view. Firstly, the definition focuses on positive and desirable behaviours, rather than considering just negative and undesirable behaviour. Secondly, the definition considers the whole person, taking into account a multitude of factors that can affect their health and well-being. Therefore, a strength of the deviation from ideal mental health definition of abnormality is that it is comprehensive, covering a broad range of criteria.

However, one weakness of the deviation from ideal mental health definition is the unrealistic criteria proposed by Jahoda. There are times when everyone will experience stress and negativity, for example, when grieving following the death of a loved one. However, according to this definition, these people would be classified as abnormal, irrespective of the circumstances which are outside their control. With the high standards set by these criteria, it must also be questioned on how many need to be absent for diagnosis to occur.

[~550 Words]

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.

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