Assess different sociological explanations of suicide

Topics: Sociology, Suicide, Émile Durkheim Pages: 6 (1925 words) Published: April 26, 2014
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess different sociological explanationsof suicide

Suicide can be defined as the killing of oneself intentionally or death that occurs as a sequel of intentional self harm of undetermined intent. There are thousands of sociological studies and explanations of suicide- Emile Durkheim's being the most influencial. Although some disagree with Durkheim's choice of research methods and analysis, most do agree that the study of suicide should be take a societal rather than an individual approach. According to Item A, other sociologists, such as Douglas, discuss the social meanings attached to suicide. These other sociologists are interpretivists and their approach is contrasting to that of Durkheim's, which positivists seek to build upon. Suicide is ubiqutious as there is no period of history with no record of suicide, and there are no societies where suicide does not occur. It has also been studied for an extremely long time, for example Mazayrk produced a study of suicide in 1881. Positivism is the belief that society can and should be studied scientifically. This approach believes that the goal of sociology should be to produce laws to explain the observed patterns in human behaviour. Before presenting his own sociological explanation of suicide, Durkeim examined several other theories. For example, Durkheim rejected psychological theories of suicide. Although he accepts that some individuals may be more pyschologically predisposed to suicide than others, he does not believe that psychological factors can explain the differences in the suicide rates of whole groups or societies. Durkeheim observed that suicide rates differed greatly from one society to another but usually stayed stable within each society. Therefore indicating that decisions to commit suicide might be influenced by the type of society in which people lived. Samaritans completed research into suicide and they found that suicide rates vary throughout different areas of the United Kingdom, supporting Durkheim's claim. Northern Ireland had the highest rate- 16 deaths per every 100000 people are as a result of suicide, whereas England had a lower rate of 10.4 per 100000. Durkheim considered social intergration to be a factor that largely influenced suicide rates, as stated in item A the two are most definitely linked. He argues that insufficient integration causes a rise in suicide- he referred to this as egoistic suicide. An example he used to back up this claim in his study was the comparison of suicide rates within Germany between Protestants and Catholics, based on statistics. Durkheim believed that Catholicism led to more integrated communities, whereas Protestantism was more fragmented. Therefore, Catholics would have a much lesser rate of sucicide. His research proved that his claim was correct. However, other sociologists have argued that Durkheim's approach to this was flawed. Reasons for this claim are due to the fact that most Catholic communities were rural while Protestants ones are urban- this may have influenced the people's behaviour , such as how integrated they felt. Furthermore, as Catholics traditionally view suicide as a mortal sin, coroners in these areas may avoid giving a verdict of death by suicide. There are further interpretitive criticisms of Durkheim's work. An example of such criticisms is the claim that Durkheim's analysis depends upon the concept of social cohesion and moral regulation, as he argues that suicide rates vary with it. Yet, he does not provide a clear unambiguous definiton of it, nor is there any obvious way of measuring it. Gibbs and Martin refer to Durkheim's study of suicide as 'the foremost sociological theory of variability in suicide rates'. Similarly to Durkheim, they are interested in making law-like cause-and-effect generalisations and predictions when researching suicide. However, they too criticise Durkheim for not operationalising his concept of integration- he...
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