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August 22, 1966

Normality: Theoretical and Clinical Concepts of Mental Health

Author Affiliations



by Daniel Offer and Melvin Sabshin, 253 pp, $5.50, New York and London: Basic Books, Publishers, 1966.

JAMA. 1966;197(8):667. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110080107048

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As Grinker points out in the introduction to this unusual book, the term "mental health" is widely used but rarely defined. The word "normal" has been used since the time of ancient Rome to mean "made according to the rule" or "conforming to the standard or common type." When, however, doctors, and especially psychiatrists, talk of normal controls, it is not always clear what they mean. Offer and Sabshin, while investigating normal adolescent behavior, became so concerned about the meaning of "normal" that they read widely in the relevant literature and wrote this book to report their findings.

As the authors point out, in the field of general medicine recent years have seen a blurring of formerly clear-cut divisions between sickness and health. Physicians now study subclinical syndromes, investigate the factors which indicate proneness to disease, attempt to help patients function on an optimal level. They recognize a network of