Theories of Suicide

Several theories focusing on the study of suicide from a sociological perspective

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  • Suicide
    • Durkheim
      • Wanted to prove suicide had social causes in an attempt to prove Sociology is a scientific discipline
      • 4 patterns that show suicide could not simply be a the motive of the individual
        • Suicide rates for any society remain more or less constant over time
        • When rates did change it coincided with other social changes
          • E.g. a fall during times of war and a rise during times of economic depression
        • Different societies have different rates
        • Within a society the rates change considerably dependent upon social group
      • Two social facts that determine rates of suicide
        • Social intergration
          • The extent to which in individual experiences a sense of belonging and obligation too a group
        • Moral regulation
          • The extent to which an individual's actions and desires are kept in check via norms and values
      • Types of suicide
        • Egotistic
          • Too little social integration and caused by excessive individualism
            • Explains lower suicide rates in Catholics in comparison to  protestants
        • Altruistic
          • Too much social integration and the suicide is an act to better others
            • Kamikaze pilots
        • Anomic
          • Lack of norms and social moral regulation causing a loss of purpose
            • Such as times of economic depression
        • Fatalistic
          • Caused by too much moral regulation restricting all choices, causing a lack of control
            • Prisoners and slaves are he most common under this type
    • Interpretivism
      • Douglas
        • Bias occurs in suicide classifications
          • The level of social integration affects the verdict of death rather than being the cause of death as Durkheim suggests
            • More people to dispute if it was a suicide
        • Suicides across cultures cannot be compared as Durkheim suggests
          • Suicide is not a fixed constant
          • The suicide of a failed Western buisnes man cannot necessarily be compared to a disgraced samurai warrior
        • Qualitative methods need to be used to find meanings and prevent over generalisation
        • Criticism
          • Shouldn't completely abandon structure
          • There is no reason why Sociologsts will be better at determining a death than a coroner as they also have a lot of shared meanings
      • Ethno-methodology
        • Atkinson
          • Argues that commonsense knowledge the coroners have leads them to label different types of evidence as relevant
          • There is too much focus on attempting to find the 'real rate' of suicide yet this will never be possible without talking to the deceased
            • More focus is needed upon the meanings
    • Realism
      • Steve Taylor (1982; 1989)
        • Agree's with the interpretivist criticism of official statistics as they offer little validity
        • Prefers the use of case studies as they have a high level of validity and allows an insight into the underlying motives
        • Created an extended definition of suicide that included failed attempted as well as those that were successful
        • Types of suicide
          • Self directed
            • Submissive
            • Thanatation
          • Other directed
            • Sacrifice
            • Appeal
      • Approach: reveal the underlying causes and structures that are not immediately observable


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