What’s Normal Development and What’s Not: Normal Versus Abnormal

Let’s face it. Life can get bumpy at any stage of the journey. Normality is all about a person’s response to the ups and downs of human existence. Growing up is largely a matter of learning how to keep yourself on a relatively even keel.

In the following diagrams, the center, solid line represents a static balance point. The two dotted lines denote a variation of range above and below a balance point that is considered normal functional behavior. Anything outside the dotted lines is considered dysfunctional or disordered.

The emotional and mental fluctuations of a normally functioning person look a lot like the electrocardiographic printout of a normal heartbeat. The axis represents emotional stability. Within a certain narrowly defined range, we expect variation. Everything’s okay as long as the needle doesn’t leap too far above or fall too far below the median.

Keep in mind that each brain is different: children process new information and new situations in their own individual ways. Personality-related factors come into play at this point: some of us are natural-born “Eeyores,” while others are “Tiggers” from the get-go. There’s nothing abnormal about temperamental differences of this kind.

As this second diagram shows, it’s when the pattern becomes erratic that there’s reason for concern. If the jumps and/or the drops get too big, or when they don’t even out after a reasonable period of time, then it’s time to seek help. The goal is to keep the average somewhere within the normal range. To stay in that normal range, you want your children to be able to regulate their emotions and reactions to whatever life throws their way.

Lesson Complete!