Since the ancient times, civilizations across the world have attempted to understand and separate normal behavior from what is considered as abnormal.
Up until now, it can be said without doubt that the separation has not been easy since behavior is largely viewed as cultural specific, and what may pass for an acceptable behavior in one culture may be vilified in another (Ganellen, 2007). In equal measure, behavior is also viewed as time-specific, and a behavior that was largely acceptable some few decades ago may presently be labeled as barbaric or worse still, abnormal.
This, however, does not mean that it untenable to contrast and compare normal and abnormal psychology. To the contrary, comparisons have been fronted from all quarters, occasioning a multiplicity of theoretical frameworks that attempt to offer objective explanation on the two concepts (Bennet, 2006).
In behavioral psychology, the word ‘normal’ basically means not to deviate from the standard norms, hence normal psychology entails the study of normal patterns of behavior, emotions, and mind (Bennet, 2006).
On the contrary, the word ‘abnormal’ basically means to deviate from the norm, hence abnormal psychology or psychopathology is the scientific study of unusual patterns of behavior, thought systems, and emotions that undeniably affect the way individuals feel, reason, and behave to a point of disrupting their own sense of wellbeing. Both normal and abnormal psychology are cultural and time specific as explained above.
For example, child beating may be allowed in some cultures while it may be seen as an insane behavior in other cultures. Also, both normal and abnormal psychology attempts to explain the centrality of behavior in determining mental health (Ganellen, 2007; Bennet, 2006).
Some psychopathologists argue that abnormal behavior is separated from normal behavior through set criteria which may not be necessarily correct. This therefore means that although deviant behavior may be grouped as abnormal by the criteria set by society, it does not automatically imply the incidence of a mental disorder. In equal measure, normal behavior does not necessarily mean the patterns of behavior are not without blame since the action may be stereotyped to fit the needs and demands of society (Bennet, 2006).
Bennet, P. (2006). Abnormal and clinical psychology: An Introductory textbook, 2nd Ed. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press
Ganellen, R.J. (2007). Assessing normal and abnormal personality functioning: Strengths and weaknesses of self-report, observer, and performance-based methods. Journal of Personality Assessment 89(1): 30-40. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database