Difference between normal and abnormal behavior

Deviant behavior occurs when a norm of behavior that is valid in a human group is not followed. In order to be able to describe a specific behavior as deviating, knowledge of the norm-compliant behavior must be available (normality). Deviating and normal behavior are related to one another and are mutually dependent. Changes in one area also cause changes in the other.

Because social norms of behavior change continuously, the perceptions of normal and deviant behavior also change. In addition, most behavioral norms are not equally valid in all parts of a society (stratum). Deviating behavior is therefore dependent on time and space as well as on the specific social groups and cultural contexts in which people live. What is considered normal behavior here can be classified as deviant there (youth). All people behave in some way differently from behavioral norms in the course of their lives. Therefore, deviant behavior is tolerated to a certain extent and thus becomes the basis for social change. In a stable society, however, there is a core set of behavioral expectations that must be observed and which, if disregarded, can lead to considerable negative consequences (crime, prostitution, addiction).

Scientific studies on deviant behavior have concentrated on researching the causes in the individual and therefore for a long time explained deviant behavior in terms of psychological, physical and social characteristics of the individual. Later, the difference between recognized social goals and the lack of means to achieve these goals (discrepancy) was used as an explanation for deviant behavior. More recent approaches regard the social reaction to deviant behavior (stigmatization) itself as causing the development of deviant behavior (empirical social research).

Against this background, social workers and social pedagogues have overcome the previously often uncritical position of social control towards people with deviant behavior. Today it is important for them to make a technically justified contribution (professionalization) to social change in a society in their professional activity (probation service, prison system). For example, social workers and social pedagogues have contributed to a greater understanding of the abnormal behavior of the mentally ill among the population today.