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Abnormal Psychology

2014 unit code: PSY30010 (formerly LSY304)

Please note that unit codes have changed from 2014.
Credit points12.5 Credit Points

1 Semester

Contact hours36 hours over the teaching period (normally 3 hours per week)

Related course(s)

*From July, 2013 this unit will be taught at the Hawthorn Campus

Effective 2010
This is a prescribed unit of study in the Social Science Major/s. It may also be undertaken as a unit of study in any other Swinburne degree program, subject to the prerequisite and degree requirements.

Aims and objectives

The unit of study is designed to introduce students to the ways in which human behavioural patterns have been conceptualised as ‘abnormal’ or dysfunctional. In examining such abnormal behaviours, students are introduced to major systems of classifying mental disorders, in particular the multiaxial system adopted in DSM-IV-TR. The unit focuses on major examples of psychological disorders in terms of their phenomenology and nosology, as well as theories about aetiology.
After successfully completing this unit, students will be able to:
  • Explain ways in which human behaviours have been identified as “abnormal” or dysfunctional.
  • Understand the features of the major systems used to classify mental disorders.
  • Discuss the major features of a multi-dimensional approach to understanding mental disorders (biological, socio-cultural and psychological).
  • Discuss the phenomenology and aetiology of major classes of disorders: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, addictive disorders, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders and developmental disorders.

Teaching methods

Units will be taught in a variety of modes including face to face, online, distance and blended modes. Delivery of this unit may be through a mixture of lectures, tutorials, laboratories, seminars and online.


Essays 30%
Examinations 50%
Class presentations 10%
Brochure 10%

Generic skills outcomes

This unit will provide discipline-based knowledge and professional capabilities and experiences contributing to students progress in attaining generic skills such as:

  • Analysis skills and problem solving skills
  • Development of theoretical thinking and critical evaluation of research
  • Appreciate historical development of idea
  • Communication skill
  • Written and oral communication skill
  • The ability to work independently


The general approach taken to understanding disorders is multidimensional, seeking to integrate information from biological, sociocultural and psychological research. Specific disorders examined may include: eating disorders; substance-related disorders; disorders first diagnosed in childhood and adolescence; dissociative disorders; intellectual disability and personality. Additional topics covered may include suicide, violent behaviours, mental disorders and the law.

Reading materials

 Barlow, DH & Durand, VM, Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach, 3rd edn, Wadsworth, Belmont, California, 2001.

Comer, RI, Abnormal Psychology, 4th edn, Freeman, New York, 2001.

Davison, GC, Neale, JM & Kring, A, Abnormal Psychology, 9th edn, John Wiley, New York, 2003.

Nevid, JS, Rathus, SA & Green, B, Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2003.

Text books

Butcher, J.N., Mineka, S. & Hooley, J.M. (2013) Abnormal Psychology (15th ed.) Pearson, Boston