A dysfunctional behaviour can be defined as “an inappropriate action or response, other than an activity of daily living, in a given social milieu that is a problem for the caregiver.” Dysfunctional behaviours commonly accompany cognitive impairment and are a significant source of burden to caregivers. Dysfunctional behaviours may be the first sign of a dementing illness, even before caregivers perceive changes in the patient’s cognitive abilities.
Dysfunctional Behaviour has been called many things- abnormal, atypical and currently dysfunctional- which seem to reflect society’s view of the individual. If someone is not able to function as a normal human being, the label ‘dysfunctional’ carries less stigma than the label ‘abnormal’. It states that a person is clearly not functioning correctly and is therefore not leading what would be considered a ‘normal’ life. He or she may lack the full range of emotions or feelings and may participate in only a limited range of behaviours that does not allow for a fully functioning lifestyle.
Approaches of Dysfunctional Behaviour
The behaviourist perspective is that we are born blank slates and all behaviour is learnt. Therefore any dysfunctional behaviour is learnt, by operant conditioning, classical conditioning, or social learning. This places the responsibility on us to ensure that we do not ‘teach’ dysfunctional behaviours to others.
The biological approach, which is part of biopsychology, would favour the nature side of the nature-nurture debate. Biological explanations of behaviour assert that something in our biology is the fundamental cause of dysfunctional behaviour. There could be genetic cause, or a malformation of brain structures.
The third approach to explain dysfunctional behaviour is that of cognitive psychology, which sees our behaviour as being a consequence of some internal processing of information. Much like a computer, we take in information, process it and respond in some way. If however there is a problem with the circuit boards in a computer, the response may not be what we would expect, and this is the same with humans. If something goes wrong with what information we attend to, and how we perceive and store it, then the response may not be what everyone expects and this could lead to a label of dysfunctional behaviour.
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