Assess the usefulness of different sociological approaches to suicide

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Bethany Headley
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of different sociological approaches to suicide (21marks)

Item A shows that there have been many studies conducted on suicide and the motives behind it. There are two main perspectives to assess when considering the usefulness of the approaches to suicide, Positivists such as Durkheim believe that suicide can be explained through official statistics and state there are distinct reasons for every suicide. Whereas, Interpretivists such as Atkinson and Douglas state that we can find the reason for suicide through qualitative studies and individual motives. Emile Durkheim elaborated upon another French Positivist, Comte in his belief that behind each individual suicide is the influence of wider social issues rather than personal vulnerabilities. After an in depth cross cultural study of suicide rates using official statistics such as relationship status, he noted particular correlations such as more suicides in single people opposed to those who were married and a higher suicide rate in Protestant countries than Catholic countries. From his study he identified two main social factors that determined suicide, one as integration into society, meaning the extent to which an individual feels a sense of belonging to a group and obligation to its members and the other as regulation, the extent to which an individual’s actions and desires are kept in check by society’s norms and values. Elaborating upon this, he argues suicide results from either too much or too little social integration or regulation. Egoistic suicide is caused by too little social integration, he suggests that is the most common type of suicide in modern society, caused by excessive individualism and lack of social ties and obligations to others which explains the lower rate among Catholics than among Protestants. Both religions condemn suicide but Protestants have more individual freedom in what to believe and how to...
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