To examine the historical perspectives on abnormal human behavior, you might consider organizing your discussion to include the way cultures have transformed their beliefs about mental illness over time.
For example, ancient cultures often believed that abnormal behavior was the result of evil spirits or demons who had taken control of a person's mental processes. To treat this "possession," a stone instrument was sometimes used to remove part of the skull, which they believed would then allow the evil spirits to escape.
Hippocrates is credited with recognizing mental illness as a disorder which had natural causes—just as any other illness. He believed that mental disorders occurred when the body (particularly bile) was out of balance and that abnormal behaviors were treatable.
Much of the progress made as a result of Hippocrates's work was reversed during the Middle Ages, when the Roman Empire fell and the Church gained power. People again believed that abnormal behavior was the result of demonic possession and could be cured by relics, holy water, and chanting.
The Renaissance was a period of great scientific growth, and Johann Weyer wrote a book which refuted the views of demonic possession. Instead, he argued that the mind, like the body, could become ill. For his work, Weyer was banned from the Church.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people began to view those who demonstrated abnormal behaviors with growing respect and kindness. You might research the work of Phillipe Pinel and William Tuke for greater insight into this transformation of public opinion.
Contemporary biological perspectives recognize the influence a person's biological composition has on abnormal behaviors. You might consider a discussion of the way a person's neurological system or endocrine system could contribute to abnormal behaviors. Most researchers believe that the way a person's biological composition is affected by their environment can influence abnormal behaviors.
There are several researchers whose work has influenced the modern psychological perspective of abnormal behavior. Your discussion might include the work of Freud's psychoanalytic theory, Jung's studies in the "collective unconscious" and personality archetypes, and Erikson's work in psychosocial development to guide this part of your discussion.
A sociocultural perspective considers the way an individual's social context influences behavior. Researchers, for example, have determined that Native Americans are about six times more likely to experience an alcohol-related disorder, and Native American teens are four times more likely than other ten-to- fourteen-year-olds to die by suicide. Sociocultural researchers study the way ethnic differences might influence abnormal behaviors; using these insights, they attempt to better utilize health resources and therapies to treat those with mental illnesses.
To conclude, you might consider a discussion of the way improved scientific understandings of abnormal behaviors have resulted in a more favorable outcome for those afflicted with various disorders.