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abnormal psychology, abnormal behavior


the causal pattern of an abnormal behavior

necessary cause

a condition that MUST EXIST for a disorder to occur (i.e. cause X exists for disorder Y to occur)

sufficient cause

a condition that GUARANTEES the occurrence of a disorder
-a sufficient cause may not be a necessary cause

contributory causes

a cause that increases the probability of a disorder developing, but is neither necessary nor sufficient for the disorder to occur
-example: parental rejection is a contributory cause to later difficulty in handling close personal relationships

distal causal factors

causal factors that occur relatively early in life but may not show their effects for many years
-may contribute to a predisposition to develop a disorder
-example: loss of parent early in life

proximal causal factors

causal factors that operate shortly before the occurrence of the symptoms of a disorder
-crushing disappointment at work is a proximal causal factor of depression

reinforcing contributory cause

a condition that tends to maintain maladaptive behavior that is already occurring
-example: extra attention that comes when you are ill

causal pattern

the term "causal pattern" is used when more than one causal factor is involved
-for example: condition A, B, C leads to condition Y

If Disorder Y occurs, then Cause X must have preceded it.

Necessary Cause

If Cause X occurs, then Disorder Y will also occur.

Sufficient Cause

If X occurs, then the probability of Disorder Y increases.

Contributory Cause


predisposition toward developing a disorder
-can derive from biological, psychological and/or sociocultural causal factors
-synonym for VULNERABILITY

diathesis-stress models

a model of abnormal behavior that theorizes a mental disorder develops when a stressor operates on a person who has a vulnerability for that disorder


the response/experience of an individual to demands that he/she perceives as taxing or exceeding his/her personal resources

additive model

-in this model, individuals who have a high level of a diathesis may need only a small amount of stress before a disorder develops
-BUT those who have love level of diathesis may need to experience a large amount of stress for a disorder to develop

interactive model

some amount of diathesis must be present before stress will have any effect
-meaning, someone with no diathesis will never develop the disorder, no matter how much stress he/she experiences

protective factors

influences that modify a person's response to environmental stressors, making it less likely that the person will experience adverse consequences of the stressors
-not all protective factors are positive; some are negative and provide an "inoculation" effect
-some protective factors might be temperamental


the ability to adapt successfully to even very difficult circumstances
-resilience is not an all-or-none capacity; some children show resilience in one domain but difficulties in other domains

multicausal developmental models

in the course of development a child may acquire a variety of cumulative risk factors that may interact in determining his/her risk for psychopathology

developmental psychology

field that focuses on determining what is abnormal at any point in development by comparing and contrasting it with the normal and expected changes that occur in the course of development

biopsychosocial viewpoint

this viewpoint acknowledges that biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors all interact and play a role in psychopathology and treatment

4 categories of biological factors relevant to the development of maladaptive behaviors

1) neurotransmitter and hormonal abnormalities in brain and/or other parts of central music system
2) genetic vulnerabilities
3) temperament
4) brain dysfunction and neural plasticity


tiny fluid-filled space btwn neurons & site of communication btwn 2 neurons


chemical substances that are released into the synapse by the presynaptic neuron when a nerve impulse occurs

3 ways there can be dysfunction in NTs

1) excessive production/release, causing functional excess
2) dysfunction in deactivation of NTs
3) problems w/receptors in postsynaptic neuron--they could be abnormally sensitive or insensitive

chemical circuits

neural paths btwn different parts of the brain

5 NTs studied in relationship to psychopathology

1) NE
2) DA
3) 5-HT
4) glutamate


NE, DA, and 5-HT

hormonal abnormalities

abnormalities in chemicals secreted by endocrine glands


chemical abnormalities secreted by set of endocrine glands in our bodies into our bloodstream

neuroendocrine system

central nervous system linked to endocrine system by effects of the hypothalamus on the pituitary gland

pituitary gland

master gland of the body; produces a variety of hormones that regulate/control the other endocrine glands

hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-cortical axis (HPA axis)
-3 steps of activation

activation of the HPA axis involves:
1) messages in the form of CRH travel from HYPOTHALMUS to the PITUITARY
2) in response to CRH, pituitary releases ACTH, which stimulates the cortical part of the adrenal gland (located at top of kidney) to produce epinephrine (adrenaline) and stress hormone CORTISOL; cortisol mobilizes body to deal w/stress
3) cortisol in turn provides negative feedback to hypothalamus and pituitary to decrease their release of CRH and ACTH, which in turn reduces release of adrenaline and cortisol
-negative feedback system operates much as a thermostat does to regulate temperature


stress hormone; it mobilizes body to deal with stress


the male hormones; an imbalance in the androgens can contribute to maladaptive behavior


long molecules of DNA


chain-like structures within a cell nucleus that contain the genes


two or more alternate forms of genes

sex chromosomes

determine the individual's sex--XX for female, XY for male


naturally occurring variations of genes


influenced by multiple genes or by multiple polymorphisms of genes
-vulnerabilities to mental disorders are almost always polygenic


a person's total genetic endowment; except for identical twins, no 2 humans ever begin life with the same endowment


the structural and functional characteristics that result from an interaction of the genotype and the environment

genotype-environment correlation

when the genotype shapes the environmental experiences a child has

genotype-environment correlation: passive effect

passive effect interaction btwn genotype and environment results from genetic similarity of parents and children
-parents with antisocial behavior tend to create a risky environment characterized by family dysfunction

genotype-environment correlation: evocative effect

evocative effect: child's genotype may evoke kinds of reaction fr social/physical environment
-active, happy babies evoke more positive responses from others than passive, unresponsive infants

genotype-environment correlation: active effect

active effect: child seeks out/builds environment that is congenial--called "niche building"
-extraverted children may seek company of others, thereby enhancing their own tendency to be sociable

genotype-environment interaction

people w/different genotypes may be differentially sensitive/susceptible to their environments
-PKU-induced mental retardation

behavior genetics

field that focuses on studying the heritability of mental disorders (as well as other aspects of psychological functioning)

3 primary methods used in behavior genetics

behavior genetics studies genetic influences on abnormal behavior through 3 methods:
1) family history (pedigree) method
2) twin method
3) adoption method
-2 other methods: linkage studies and association studies

family history (pedigree) method

-requires an investigator observe samples of relatives of each proband or index case to see whether the incidence increases in proportion to the degree of hereditary relationship
-(incidence of the disorder in normal population is compared as control)
-limitation: people who are closely related genetically also tend to share more similar environments; makes it difficult to disentangle genetic/environmental effects

twin method

no form of psychopathology has a 100% concordance rate; means we can conclude no mental disorders are completely heritable

concordance rate

-percentage of twin sharing the disorder/trait
-if a given disorder were completely heritable, concordance rate would be 100%

if a disorder has a strong genetic component, then concordance rates would be ______________ for dizygotic than monozygotic twins

(DZ twins are nonidentical, MZ twins are identical)

evidence for genetic transmission of train/disorder can be obtained by comparing concordance rates btwn

identical and nonidentical twins

the ideal study of genetic factors in psychopathology involves

identical twins who have been reared apart in significantly different environments

adoption method of behavior genetics

-biological parent of individuals who have given disorder (and were adopted away shortly after birth) are compared w/biological parents of individuals without disorder (who were also adopted away shortly after birth)
-if there is a genetic influence, there should be higher rates of disorder in biological relatives of those with disorder than in those without the disorder

shared environmental influences

environmental factors that would make children in a family more similar, whether the influence occurs within the family (poverty) or in the environment (2 high quality schools, with one twin going to each)

nonshared environmental influences

environmental factors which different children in a family differ
-example: unique experiences at school

linkage analysis

attempt to determine actual location of genes responsible for mental disorders by capitalizing on currently known locations on chromosomes of genes for other inherited physical characteristics or biological processes (such as eye color, blood group, etc.)
-linkage analysis suggests gene for bipolar disorder on chromosome 11
-schizophrenia on parts of chromosomes 22, 6, 8, and 1

association studies

-2 large groups of individuals: 1 grp with and 1 grp w/o disorder
-researchers compare frequencies in these 2 grps of certain genetic markers known to be located on particular chromosomes (such as eye color)


-refers to a child's reactivity and characteristic ways of self-regulation
-in babies: the tendency to approach, withdraw, or attend to various situations
-these behaviors are strongly influenced by genetic factors, but prenatal and postnatal environmental factors also play a role in their development
-at 2-3 months approx. 5 dimensions of temperament can be identified: fearfulness, irritability/frustration, positive affect, activity level, and attentional persistence/effortful control
-as adult, there are 3 dimensions of personality: neuroticism/negative emotionality, extraversion/positive emotionality, constraint (conscientiousness/agreeableness)

behaviorally inhibited

personality trait of children who are fearful in many unfamiliar situations


personality trait of children who show little fear of anything

neural plasticity

-flexibility of the brain in making changes in organization and/or function in response to pre and postnatal experiences, stress, diet, disease, drugs, maturation, etc.
-existing neural circuits can be modified, or new circuits can be generated

prenatal experiences

experiences that characterize the prenatal environment
(could be loud noises mother is exposed to, etc.)

postnatal environmental events

-experiences an infant has affects formation of new neural connections (synapses) after birth

developmental systems approach

-an approach that acknowledges not only that genetic activity influences neural activity, which in turn influences behavior, which in turn influences the environment, BUT also that these influences are BIDIRECTIONAL


-a mediator lies btwn 2 variables and helps explain the relationship btwn them
-for example: effects of psychological events are MEDIATED through activities of the central nervous system b/c all our behaviors, beliefs, emotions, and cognitions are reducible to a set of biological events in the brain

psychoanalytic school

-founded by Freud
-emphasizes the role of unconscious motives/thoughts & their relationship to normal and abnormal behavior
-key concept is UNCONSCIOUS

unconscious, as Freud conceives it

-the unconscious is the biggest part of the iceberg, which we can't see
-contains hurtful memories, forbidden desires, and other experiences that have been repressed
-Freud believes unconscious material continues to seek expression & emerges in dreams, fantasies, slips of the tongue
-repressing may lead to irrational and maladaptive behavior


-form of psychotherapy Freud developed
-seeks to bring unconscious material to the surface

psychodynamic perspectives

second generation of theories stemming from Freud's original psychoanalytic theory


-source of instinctual drives and first structure to appear in infancy
-2 kinds of opposing drives: 1) life instincts and death instincts
-the ID operates on the PLEASURE PRINCIPLE
-ID is concerned w/immediate gratification of instinctual needs w/o moral considerations
-the ID can generate mental images called PRIMARY PROCESS THINKING

life instincts

1 of 2 kinds of drives originating in the ID
-life instincts are constructive drives primarily of a sexual nature, which constitute the LIBIDO


basic emotional and psychic energy of life

death instincts

1 of 2 kinds of drives originating in the ID
-death instincts are destructive drives that tend toward aggression, destruction, and eventual death

pleasure principle

the id operates on the pleasure principle
-completely selfish and pleasure-oriented behavior

"sexual" in Freud's context

anything pleasurable, from eating to painting

primary process thinking

mental images and wish-fulfillment fantasies generated by the ID


2nd part of personality that mediates btwn demands of the ID and the realities of the external world
-basic function of ego is to meet demands of ID in a way that ensures well-being and survival of individual (using reason & exercise of control over ID)
-ego's adaptive measures are called SECONDARY PROCESS THINKING
-ego operates on the REALITY PRINCIPLE

secondary process thinking

-ego's adaptive measures to control the ID

reality principle

the EGO's awareness of the demands of the environment & adjustment of behavior to meet these demands


-3rd part of personality that gradually emerges from the ego
-it is the outgrowth of internalizing the taboos and moral values of society concerning what is right/wrong
-essentially, the superego is what we call the "CONSCIENCE"
-superego becomes an inner control system that deals w/uninhibited desires of the id


-since ego mediates among desires of id, demands of reality, and moral constraints of superego, ego is called EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THE PERSONALITY

intrapsychic conflicts

Freud believes interplay of id, ego, and superego is crucial to determining behavior
-unresolved conflicts are called INTRAPSYCHIC CONFLICTS and result from 3 subsystems striving for different goals
-unresolved intrapsychic conflicts lead to mental disorder


generalized feelings of fear and apprehension

ego-defense mechanisms

irrational protective measures the ego resorts to to deal with unconscious neurotic and moral anxiety

5 psychosexual stages of development

1) ORAL stage: first 2 yrs of life. mouth principle erogenous zone.
2) ANAL stage: 2-3 yrs old. anus provides principle source of pleasurable stimulation.
3) PHALLIC stage: 3-5 or 6 yrs. self-manipulation of genitals major source of pleasurable sensation.
4) LATENCY period: 6-12 yrs old. sexual motivations recede in importance as child becomes preoccupied w/developing skills.
5) GENITAL stage: after puberty. deepest feelings of pleasure come from sexual relations.


Freud believed appropriate gratification at each stage of development is important to making sure someone avoids getting stuck or FIXATED at that level.
(i.e. an infant who doesn't get sufficient oral gratification at that stage may be prone to excessive eating, smoking, or drinking later in life)

Name some ego-defense mechanisms

DISPLACEMENT: discharging pent-up feelings on less threatening objects/people
RATIONALIZATION: using contrived "explanations" to conceal/disguise unworthy motives for one's behavior
PROJECTION: attributing one's unacceptable motives or characteristics to others
REGRESSION: retreating to earlier developmental level
REPRESSION: preventing painful/dangerous thoughts from entering consciousness

oedipus complex

each young boy relieves Oedipus drama, according to Freud, which involves:
-longing for mother sexually & viewing father as a hated rival
-experiencing castration anxiety (that father will castrate him)
-castration anxiety forces boy to repress sexual desire for mother and hostility for father
-if all goes well, boy comes to identify with father and have only harmless affection for mother, channeling sexual impulses towards another woman

castration anxiety

-boys fear that fathers, their hated rival, will punish son's lust for mother by cutting off his penis
-this anxiety forces son to repress sexual desire for mother and hostility towards father

Electra complex

-female counterpart of Oedipus complex
-each girl desires to possess father and replace mother
-girl experiences PENIS ENVY, wishing to be like father/brothers
-girl emerges from electra complex when she comes to identify with mother and settles for having a man who can give her a baby, which unconsciously serves as penis substitute

ego psychology

school of theory based on work by Anna Freud
-places more importance on ego and ego-defense mechanisms
-psychopathology develops when ego doesn't function adequately to control/delay impulse gratification or doesn't make adequate use of defense mechanisms when faced with internal conflicts

object-relations theory

-focus on individuals' interactions w/real and imagined other people (external/internal objects) and on relationships that people experience btwn expernal/internal objects
-OBJECT refers to symbolic representation of another person in infant's environment, most often a parent
-through process of INTROJECTION, child incorporates objects into his/her personality (through images/memories)
-for example: child may internalize image of punishing father that becomes harsh self-critic
-an individual being pulled in many directions by different objects struggles to live integrated, orderly life

interpersonal perspective
-who is the main figure in this school?
-what is the emphasis on here?
-people are seen as ________ and are motivated by __________?

-ALFRED ADLER, student of Freud, founder of this school
-emphasizes SOCIAL/CULTURAL forces rather than inner instincts as determinants of behavior
-Adler believes people are inherently SOCIAL BEINGS and are motivated by DESIRE TO BELONG to a group

attachment theory
-who is the main figure of this school?
-what is emphasis here?

-John Bowlby is founder of this school
-influential in child psychology & adult psychopathology
-roots in interpersonal/object-relations perspectives
-Bowlby emphasizes importance of early experience, esp. early experience w/ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIPS, as laying foundation for later functioning throughout life
-infant is seen as playing an active role in shaping course of his/her own development

Freud's 2 most significant contributions

1) development of THERAPEUTIC TECHNIQUES (such as free association)
2) recognition that ABNORMAL MENTAL PHENOMENON can be result of ATTEMPT TO COPE with difficult problems

humanistic perspective

-views human nature as basically "good"
-places strong emphasis on the importance of individuality and people's inherent capacity for responsible self-direction
-Carl Rogers major figure in school
-SELF-ACTUALIZING: achieving our full potential

existential perspective

-resembles humanistic perspective: emphasis on uniqueness of each individual BUT less optimistic view of human beings
-view of living as "confrontation" with dehumanizing mass society


-modification of behavior as a result of experience
-central theme of BEHAVIORIST approach

classical conditioning

-process through which a formerly NEUTRAL specific stimulus comes to elicit a specific BIOLOGICALLY ADAPTIVE response
-initially, unconditioned stimulus naturally elicits unconditioned response
-conditioned stimulus comes to elicit conditioned response


-gradual process through which conditioned response gradually extinguishes

spontaneous recovery

-when an extinguished response returns

How is classical conditioning relevant to abnormal psychology?

-many physiological and emotional responses can be conditioned, incld those related to fear, anxiety, sexual arousal, and those stimulated by drugs of abuse

instrumental (or operant) conditioning

-individual learns how to achieve a desired goal
-the concept of REINFORCEMENT is essential; new responses are learned and recur if they are reinforced through reward of pleasant stimulus, or removal from aversive stimulus

what kind of conditioning involves Stimulus-Stimulus expectancy?

classical conditioning (hint: CC=SS)

what kind of conditioning involves response-outcome expectancy?

instrumental (operant) conditioning

what kind of conditioning produces a CONDITIONED-AVOIDANCE RESPONSE

instrumental (operant) conditioning
(hint: it involves response-outcome expectancy)


-when a response is conditioned to one stimulus/set of stimuli and then evoked by another, similar stimuli


-occurs when a person learns to distinguish btwn similar stimuli and to respond differently to them based on which ones are followed by reinforcement
-example: red strawberries taste good, while green do not. After exposure to each, a person learns a discriminating response to each stimulus.

observational learning

-learning through observation alone, without directly experiencing an unconditioned stimulus (for Class.C) or a reinforcement (for Inst.C)
-observational learning expands the possibility for learning both ADAPTIVE and MALADAPTIVE behavior

explanation of maladaptive behavior according to the behavioral perspective

Maladaptive behavior is the result of:
1) failure to learn adaptive behaviors/competencies
2) learning ineffective/maladaptive responses
-in other words, maladaptive behavior is the result of LEARNING GONE AWRY

focus of behavior therapist is...

...changing specific behaviors and emotional responses
1) eliminating undesirable reactions/responses
2) learning desirable ones

cognitive psychology involves the study of


Name 2 behavioral psychologists

Watson, Skinner


-cognitive-behavioral perspective
-people learn by INTERNAL REINFORCEMENT (we are motivated by visualizing consequences/results of doing or not doing a task)
-theory that cognitive-behavioral treatments work by improving SELF-EFFICACY, the belief one can achieve desired goals

cognitive-behavioral perspective on abnormal behavior

-abnormal behavior is the result of distorted thoughts/information processing that leads to maladaptive emotions and behavior
-central construct is concept of SCHEMA, which people develop through temperament, abilities, and experiences


-underlying representation of knowledge that guides the current processing of information and often leads to distortions in attention, memory, and comprehension

name 2 cognitive-behavioral psychologist

Bandura, Beck


-our views on who we are, what we might become, and what is important to us
-view on what various roles we occupy in our social environment
-sources of psychological vulnerabilities
-unconsciously held assumptions


-how we work new experiences into our existing cognitive frameworks, even if new info has to be reinterpreted/distorted to make it fit
-we are likely to cling to existing assumptions and reject/distort new information that contradicts them


-changing our existing frameworks to make it possible to incorporate new info that doesn't fit
-more difficult and threatening than assimilation

nonconscious mental activity

-studied by cognitive psychologists
-term for mental processes that are occurring without our being aware of them
-example: implicit memory
-nonconscious mental activity is different from Freud's concept of the unconscious

attribution theory

-process of assigning causes to things that happen
-helps us explain how we make sense of our own and others' behavior
-could involve external or internal factors

attribution style

-characteristic way in which an individual tends to assign causes to bad events or good events
-depressed people tend to attribute bad events to internal, stable, and global causes ("I failed because I'm stupid, I'll always be stupid, and I'm stupid at everything.")

self-serving bias

-attribution style nondepressed people use
-means they are more likely to make internal, stable, and global attributions for POSITIVE instead of negative events

Who is considered the founder of cognitive therapy?

Aaron Beck

The adoption of a psychotherapeutic perspective effects 3 things

1) our perception of maladaptive behavior
2) the types of evidence we look for
3) the way in which we are likely to interpret the data

4 categories of psychological causal factors

1) early deprivation or trauma
2) inadequate parenting styles
3) marital discord and divorce
4) maladaptive peer relationships

disorganized/disoriented style of attachment

-characterized by insecure, disorganized, and inconsistent behavior with primary caregiver

4 types of parenting styles

1) authoritative
2) authoritarian
3) permissive/indulgent
4) neglectful/uninvolved
-these styles vary in degree of PARENTAL WARMTH and degree of PARENTAL CONTROL

authoritative parenting style

-parents are both very warm and careful to set clear standards/limits on certain behaviors, while allowing considerable freedom within these limits
-this style associated w/most positive early social development

authoritarian parenting style

-parents are high on control, but low on warmth; oftn appear cold/demanding
-children tend to be conflicted, moody, irritable & lower in social/academic competence

permissive/indulgent parenting style

-parents high on warmth, low on discipline/control
-associated w/impulsive & aggressive behavior in childhood & adolescence

neglectful/uninvolved parenting style

-parents low on warmth and on control
-parents tend to be disengaged and not supportive
-children have problems w/peer relations & academic performance

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