Normality and the Life Cycle: A Critical Integration

Normality and the Life Cycle: A Critical Integration

Normality and the Life Cycle: A Critical Integration

Normality and the Life Cycle: A Critical Integration

Excerpt

Normality and/or mental health * have been controversial subjects since the beginning of psychiatry and psychology. The interpretation of how these forms should be defined, however, has much greater implications for mental health policies today than at any other time in history. We have been deeply involved with this problem for many years and, in fact, anticipated many of the current developments. This book was begun at the time of the publication of the Presidential Commission Report on Mental Health (1978). To us, the Presidential Report confirmed the necessity of clarifying what is meant by normality throughout the life cycle. As we complete this volume in 1983, current policy debates reinforce our beliefs that much work needs to be done in conceptualization and investigation of normal behavior.

In addition to updating our own ideas concerning normality and mental health, this volume will take into account the considerable amount of new empirical data, clinical observation, theoretical conceptualization, and general understanding of normal human behavior. Indeed, we believe that the question "What is normal behavior really like?" is so important that the field itself deserves an integrative name. Thus we have coined a term, normatology, to heighten awareness and interest in the subject (see chapter 14 for details). This book is a contribution toward this effort.

The purpose of this book is to document what we know about normality, or mental health, throughout the life cycle. In contrast to Jahoda's (1958) and, more recently, Coan's (1977) concepts of positive mental health, we believe that the behavioral and social sciences are not yet at the point of development wherein the known can be separated from the valued (see chapter 12). Smith (1969) has been an eloquent critic of the perspective of Jahoda and others. He brings to light the obstacle that every worker in the field of normality and mental health had difficulty in overcoming: namely, the intermingling of one's own values in the concepts one views as mentally healthy or normal. We also want to try to better comprehend why, under seemingly similar circumstances, one person copes successfully with his or her internal and external psychological . . .

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