Abnormal Psychology Research Proposal
Historically, the concept of abnormality was not a homogeneous and rigid notion. In stark contrast, views of abnormality related to the behavior of people varied consistently to the extent that the perception of the cause and essence of abnormalities in the behavior of people was absolutely different in different epochs. No wonder, the present concept of abnormal psychology is not only different but, to a significant extent, contradicting to the concept of abnormality, which was commonly accepted in the past epochs. Naturally, as views of the concept of abnormality varied so did the treatment of people having certain deviations from the normal behavior. In fact, the word “treatment” can hardly be applied to the actions undertaken in the past to people suffering from deviations from the normal behavior under the impact of their mental health problems. In such a context, it is very important to trace the evolution of the concept of abnormality in the course of the development of human society, science and views concerning this problem, in order to understand the extent to which the definition of the concept of abnormality may be conventional and sometimes inadequate and irrelevant to the actual cause and essence of the abnormality.
First of all, the concept of abnormality is quite an arguable concept because it has varied in the course of time and even today there is no agreement among specialists on this concept. The main reason for such a diversity of views of the concept of abnormality may found in the definition of the concept itself, because the definition of abnormality is closely interrelated to the concept of a norm. What is meant here is the fact that the abnormality is traditionally perceived as a deviation from a norm, for instance, an abnormal behavior is the behavior that does not match socially accepted standards and norms of behavior (Hockenbury and Hockenbury 2003:126). Paradoxically, such a definition of abnormality can be applied to all epochs and societies, though slight and insignificant variations are possible.
In such a situation, it is quite logical that the concept of abnormality was highly dependent on the socio-cultural environment and cultural context of the epoch in which this concept was developed and applied. Obviously, the existing norms and standards, as well as beliefs, defined the essence of the abnormality, its causes, essence and methods of the treatment of people having some abnormalities in their behavior and psychology. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the ancient epoch, when views and beliefs of people were substantially influenced by their perception of the surrounding world at large and human beings in particular. For instance, one of the prominent philosophers of the ancient world, Plato, insisted on the external origin of the abnormality in human’s behavior. To put it more precisely, he argued that the deviation from the norm, i.e. the abnormal behavior of people was provoked by evil spirits, who took possession over humans and provoked the abnormal behavior. At this point, people living in the ancient epoch basically agreed with Plato. Though they did not accept his idea that the abnormality was caused by “natural madness, usually caused by a disease” (Parker et al. 1995:92). In stark contrast, ancient philosophers and the general public believed that the abnormality is rather a punishment of an individual from the part of gods for his or her misbehavior or disrespect of gods, for instance.
This mystic view of the cause and essence of the abnormality was maintained in the later epoch, the Middle Ages, while the idea of Plato concerning the natural cause of the abnormality was unjustly rejected and it is only in the later epoch mental health problems were identified as the main cause of the abnormal behavior. At the same time, during the Middle Ages the shift had taken place in relation to the abnormality since the dominance of Christianity led to the interpretation of the cause of the abnormality as the fact of being “possessed by demons” (Hockenbury and Hockenbury 2003:112). In a way, the medieval demons may be compared to evil spirits of the ancient epoch. However, the dominance of Christianity and Inquisition resulted in the absolutely inhuman, from the contemporary point of view, treatment of people with abnormal behavior. These people were exorcised by the churches or even burned at the stake for possessing the demons (Hockenbury and Hockenbury 2003:132).
The Renaissance and Enlightenment stimulated the development of science and change in the attitude of people to the abnormality. During this epoch, humanistic principles had been introduced (Hansell and Damour 2005:103). Moreover, ideas of ancient philosophers, including Plato, were revived and reevaluated. As a result, the view of abnormality steadily grew closer to the contemporary scientific view of this problem.
However, it is only by the early 19th century the concept of abnormality had been changed consistently (King 1998:4). To put it more precisely, the idea of being possessed by evil spirits or demons was totally rejected, instead, the idea of natural causes, such as a mental illness, became commonly accepted. These ideas and views of the abnormality were developed further, but there were still certain differences in views. For instance, supporters of biological approach believed that the abnormality was provoked by illness and health problems on the biological level, i.e. the abnormality was viewed as some malfunction of human body (Hansell and Damour, 2005). Behavioral and psychological approach tended to focus on psychological and mental causes of the abnormality (Bennett 2003:94).
Nevertheless, in spite of existing differences, the attitude of people to those, who had the abnormal behavior, had changed dramatically. Since the abnormality was and still is viewed as an illness, people who have this problem are treated by healthcare specialist and receive essential assistance from the part of healthcare and social services as well as relatives who take care of these people. Moreover, asylums, which were created for the treatment of people with abnormalities, tend to disappear as the concept of the community treatment and integration grows more and more popular in regard to people with abnormality (Bennett 2003:97). As a result, today people with abnormality, if they are not socially dangerous, tend to be integrated in the normal, social life.
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