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Social and Interpersonal Approaches

The social and interpersonal approaches to abnormality focus on the relationships and interactions individuals have, as well as societal impacts on them. As opposed to other theories of abnormal psychology, this theory emphasizes the impact of the environment on the individual, including the family, workplace, social class, and religion. Specific concepts within these approaches are interpersonal theory, family systems theory, and social structural theory.

Interpersonal theory claims that individuals' relationships can result in abnormality if these relationships are negative and prolonged, especially in terms of early childhood experiences. This field includes such things as Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, and theories of attachment in childhood leading to how individuals characterize relationships later in life.

Meanwhile, family systems theory focuses on how the family works to maintain a certain equilibrium, which can be in some instances a supportive, loving environment, and can other times be quite negative and dysfunctional. This essentially means that in order to maintain equilibrium in a dysfunctional family, one or more family members may need to have a mental disorder to provide balance.

Image credit: Casey Konstantin

The idea of society placing burden and stress, as well as constraints on the individual, is what makes up the social structural theory of abnormality. Due to the stress associated with a high-paced environment these days, and laws and social rules deeming what is appropriate or not, individuals can develop mental disorders if they are unable to cope.

While the social and interpersonal approaches to abnormal psychology are commended for considering more than just the individual as the cause for mental disorders, it is somewhat unclear as to how societal factors and pressure cause disorders and why different disorders manifest in different people. Therefore, research continues in this area.

Categories within Social and Interpersonal Approaches

Interpersonal Theories of Abnormality

Postings: 6

Interpersonal theory claims that individual's relationships can result in abnormality if these relationships are negative and prolonged, especially early childhood experiences.

Family Systems Theories of Abnormality

Postings: 39

Family systems theories focus on how dysfunctional families can create and maintain abnormal behaviour in the family in order to be at equilibrium.

Family Therapy Theories

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