The Sociology of Suicide

Revision notes on the sociology of suicide, covering:

  • Durkheim (1897) - Correlation of high suicide rates & 4 types of suicide
  • Responses to Durkheim - Halbwachs (1930) & Gibbs and Martin (1964)
  • Interpretive theories of suicide - Douglas (1967), Baechler (1979), Dorais (2004)
  • Criticism of interpretive theory
  • Phenomenology of suicide - Atkinson (1978)
  • Criticisms of phenomenology - Hindess (1973)
  • Realist approach - Taylor ((1982, 1989, 1990)
  • Evaluation
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The Sociology of Suicide
Suicide is no longer a criminal act in Britain, but it is still widely regarded as
deviant since it contravenes norms relating to the sanctity of human life
Durkheim (1970, first published 1897) tried to show that suicide was not just a
product of individual psychology and that positivist methods could be used to
study and explain acts of suicide and suicide rates
He showed that suicide rates varied fairly consistently
High suicide rates
High suicide rates were correlated with:
o Protestants rather than Catholics or Jews
o Married people rather than single people
o Parents rather than the childless
o Political stability and peace rather than political upheaval and war
o Economic booms and slumps
Four types of suicide
From the statistical patterns, Durkheim claimed to have identified four types of
o Egoistic suicide ­ Caused by insufficient integration into social groups
(for example, Protestants had less connection to their church than
o Anomic suicide ­ Resulted from too little regulation in industrial
societies at times when rapid social change disrupted traditional norms
(for example, both economic booms and depression led to a rise in
suicide rates)
o Altruistic suicide ­ Resulted from excessive integration in nonindustrial
societies (for example ­ the practice of suttee ­ Hindu widows throwing
themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres)
o Fatalistic suicide ­ Resulted from too much regulation in nonindustrial
societies (for example, the suicide of slaves)

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Despite his association with positivism, Durkheim used elements of a realist
approach in looking for unobservable structures underlying suicide rates.…read more

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Dorais (2004)
Used an interpretative approach to understanding high rates of suicide
amongst young men
He conducted indepth interviews with 32 Canadian men who had attempted
He found that many of the men had attempted suicide because they were, or
were perceived by others to be, gay or bisexual in a society which was still
As a result many of the men felt isolated from social groups: gay men who did
not consider suicide tended to be better integrated into social groups
Dorais…read more

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Hindess (1973)
Points out that the logic of this view can be turned against phenomenologists'
own theories of how deaths are categorised as suicides
E.g.…read more


ali wasi

excellent however slightly more evaluation and analysis could be added. e.g validity, representative and reliability could be added or expanded.

Still brillaint and helpful

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