Assess the usefulness of Durkheim’s study of suicide in modern industrial society (40 marks)
Durkheim proposed this definition of suicide: "the term suicide is applied to all cases of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result". It has long been seen as deviant and so has been studied by sociologists. For example, Durkheim did a study of suicide. But how useful is Durkheim’s study of suicide in modern industrial society?
In Durkheim's study, the dependent variable was the suicide rate. Durkheim believed that social forces would affect the overall suicide rate - these forces became his independent variables. Durkheim's major independent variables were religious affiliation, marital status, military/civilian status, and economic conditions. Durkheim's data came from government statistics (secondary data). When Durkheim collected his data he found that suicide was higher among Protestants than Catholics, and lowest among Jews. It was higher among single people than married people and lowest among married people with children. The rate of suicide declined with each additional child a parent had. Suicide was higher among soldiers than among civilians. It was higher for officers than enlisted men, and among enlisted men, it was higher for volunteers than draftees. The suicide rate was higher in times of economic depression and economic booms than during more stable periods.
Durkheim's analysis led him to identify four distinct patterns of suicide; the three patterns most commonly referred to are egoistic suicide, altruistic suicide and anomic suicide. Egoistic suicide is committed by people who aren’t strongly supported by membership in a cohesive social group. As outsiders, they depend more on themselves than on group goals and rules of conduct to sustain them in their lives and, in times of stress, they feel isolated and helpless. Altruistic suicide is...
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