The concept of normality has evolved over time in relation to social and cultural changes. Nowadays, child and adolescent psychiatry describes normality and pathology taking into account the developmental features of the individual. Furthermore, the distinction between normality and pathology is currently challenged by the shifting rules of social behaviour. One thus wonders how these changes now mould children’s and adolescents’ psychological and social development. To answer this question, the Authors analyse the results of two of their research studies on adolescence: the relationship between substance use, self harm and psychopathology. Despite the diversity of the cases examined, vulnerability (or frailty) appears to be a common and signficant feature underlining the shift from normality to pathology. The Authors, then, define the concept of vulnerability (or frailty), underline the value of a structural diagnostic approach and draw attention to the declining functions of ego and conflicts in monitoring child and adolescent development. On the other hand, they underline the increasing needs of narcissistic support. Ultimately, the Authors highlight the implications of such facts on therapeutic practices, that consequently focus less on interpretation and more on setting.
Keywords: Normality, psychopathology, adolescence, vulnerability, diagnosis.