Abnormality from a Biological or Psychological Theory Lens


Write 3–4 pages in which you examine an abnormal behavior through the lens of a selected biological or psychological theory and compare and contrast the behavior from the point of view of the selected theory with the sociocultural viewpoint.

There are many origins of abnormal behavior, and the development of abnormal behavior can be understood differently from different points of view. Theories in psychology can help us to understand various aspects of how behaviors develop.

By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

  • Competency 1: Apply relevant theories to issues in mental health.
  • Describe how a theory views behavior in general.
  • Explain how the theory describes the cause of a selected abnormal behavior.
  • Compare and contrast the viewpoint of your theory with the sociocultural viewpoint.
  • Describe the benefits or drawbacks to applying multiple theories to defining abnormal behavior.
  • Competency 6: Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, and consistent with expectations for professionals in the field of psychology.
  • Use well-developed written communication by writing in a manner that is generally concise, logically organized, and utilizes correct punctuation, spelling, grammar, and mechanics.
  • Apply scholarly writing skills and use proper APA formatting and style in all papers and reference lists.


Defining Abnormality

We all have our views on what is normal and abnormal behavior. For some behaviors there is a great deal of controversy as to whether a behavior can be defined as abnormal.

In psychology, abnormal is defined by “the four Ds” (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, pp. 6–7). If the behavior fits all of the four Ds, it can be categorized as abnormal, or maladaptive, from a psychological standpoint.

The four Ds are:

  1. Dysfunctional – Interferes with daily functioning or the ability to form relationships.
  2. Distressing – Causes distress to self or others.
  3. Deviant – Far outside of cultural norms or potentially harmful to self or others.
  4. Dangerous – Causes harm to self or others.

Various theories in psychology have different views on how abnormal or maladaptive behavior develops. For psychology professionals, it is important to have an understanding of how various theories help us to recognize, explain, and treat the origins of maladaptive behavior. Through this process, we can recognize our own biases and better explore options for assisting those who exhibit abnormal behaviors.


Suggested Resources

The resources provided here are optional. You may use other resources of your choice to prepare for this assessment; however, you will need to ensure that they are appropriate, credible, and valid. The Abnormal Psychology Library Guide can help direct your research, and the Supplemental Resources and Research Resources, both linked from the left navigation menu in your courseroom, provide additional resources to help support you.

Theories and Definitions of Abnormality

These resources provide information about theories of abnormal psychology and behavior. They also provide information about sociocultural viewpoints on abnormal behavior.

  • Hooley, J. M., Butcher, J. N., & Nock, M. K. (2019). Abnormal psychology (18th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Available in the courseroom via the VitalSource Bookshelf link.
  • Chapter 1, “Abnormal Psychology: Overview and Research Approaches,” pages 1–31.
  • Chapter 2, “Earliest Views of Abnormal Behavior,” pages 32–52.
  • Chapter 10, “Personality Disorders,” pages 327–370.
  • Eiroa-Orosa, F. J., & Rowe, M. (2017). Taking the concept of citizenship in mental health across countries. Reflections on transferring principles and practice to different sociocultural contexts [PDF]. Frontiers in Psychology8, 1020, 1–11. Retrieved from https://doaj.org/article/1a650ff02fbb4ef3b26d10731ee774ed?
  • Wakefield, J. C., & First, M. B. (2013). Clarifying the boundary between normality and disorder: A fundamental conceptual challenge for psychiatry. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry58(11), 603–605.
  • Addo, R., Agyemang, S. A., Tozan, Y., & Nonvignon, J. (2018). Economic burden of caregiving for persons with severe mental illness in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review. PLoS ONE, 13(8), 1–12.
  • Edwards, D. J. A. (2016). Not so abnormal psychology: A pragmatic view of mental illness. Humanistic Psychologist44(4), 416–421.
  • First, M. B. (2017). The DSM revision process: Needing to keep an eye on the empirical ball. Psychological Medicine47(1), 19–?22.

The DSM-5 is a critical resource used by psychology professionals in the diagnosis of disorders.

These resources explain how to use the manual, and provide access to descriptions of and diagnosis criteria for the mental disorders listed in the manual

History of Mental Illness 

These resources provide information about how views of mental illness have developed over time.


There are a variety of views that postulate the causes of abnormal behavior. To begin this assignment:

  • Select a theory from the biological or psychological point of view and use it to describe the cause of an abnormal behavior. Support your discussion of the theory with at least 3 resources, two of them peer-reviewed journal articles.

Potential biological points of view could include:

  • Neurotransmitter or hormone imbalance.
  • Genetic vulnerabilities.

Potential psychological points of view could include:

  • Psychoanalytic theory.
  • Ego psychology.
  • Objects-relations theory.
  • Classical conditioning.
  • Instrumental conditioning.
  • Humanistic perspective.
  • Existential perspective.
  • Cognitive-behavioral perspective.

In your paper, you should cover the following:

  • Describe your theory in detail and how the theory views behavior in general.
  • Explain how your theory describes the cause of your selected abnormal behavior.
  • Compare and contrast the point of view you chose with the sociocultural viewpoint.
    • How might they view the abnormal behavior similarly?
    • How might they view the abnormal behavior differently?
  • Describe the benefits or drawbacks to applying multiple theories to defining abnormal behavior.

References should be included and cited. Review the Theories of Abnormal Behavior Scoring Guide, in the resources, prior to submission so that you address all required grading criteria.

Additional Requirements

  • Title page: Include your name, course, date, and instructor.
  • Reference: Textbook and two peer-reviewed journal articles. Additional references may be used.
  • Written communication: Written communication is free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • APA formatting: Resources and citations are formatted according to APA (sixth edition) style and formatting.
  • Length of paper: 3–4 typed, double-spaced pages.
  • Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12 point.
  • Submit your paper to the assignment area for grading.

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