AQA Suicide notes

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The Positivist Approach

DURKHEIM= suicide isn't always an individual act, but a social fact. its the product of social forces. personal reasons may account for some individual explanations, but overall laws are visible which increase suicide rates. he uses a thought experiment using suicide rates from Europe over 30 years (1860- 1880's). using a thought experiment produces very few ethical issues and this is good as suicide is a sensitive subject. Italy and spain had low rates of suicide but russia, denmark and germany had high rates. Durkeim predicted that "low levels of social and moral integration are more likely to lead to high suicide rates". In other words, those that were highly involved in family and community were less likely to commit suicide. EVAL= this is a very biased hypothesis, POPPER- we should falsify not verify statements, INTERPRETAVIST- a grounded theory would be better. this is a very vague hypothesis. He then carried out an analysis on rural/ urban life, married/ unmarried, children/ childless, well educated/ uneducated. He isolated these variables are tested them. The effect of IV (causes) on the DV (the effect of higher suicide rates) was studied. He came to the conclusion that his hypothesis was true. Suicide rates were higher in areas with low levels of integration e.g. more homeless and less community feeling. He believed he identified a casual link

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Durkheim's Classification of Suicide

1. Egoistic- the most common and selfish. Not enough social integration (today's unemployed, rootless males who arent needed). Religion and war unites people so even war has a purpose. 2. Anomic Suicide- in times of anomie people feel lost etc. and dont know what to do. This happens a lot in times of social change. 3. Altruistic Suicide- Known as generous suicide. When you sacrifice yourself for the rest of society. E.g. Hindu widows chuck themselves onto their husbands coffin as its what religion expects... you give yourself up because your husband has died. 4. Fatalistic Suicide- too much moral regulation. This happens a lot in Asian women where their families control them too much. Tends to happen where there is no escape. Happens in sects too. EVAL- Well Done!!! These still work today :). However the stats used were only stats and were based on what coroners said was a suicide not how many suicides there are was!. Suicide on death certificates is a new thing. Suicide is a sin and would have been hidden well. What is classed as suicide is different in European countries, durkheim didn't take this into account. Verificationism rushed the study. Difficult to ensure that it was the IV changing the DV. Some would say that some variables are more important than others. SAINSBURY= he says social disorganisation is the main reason for suicide... but this term needs to be operationalised its too vague. GIBBS ET AL- status integration is more important (society does/n't reward you unless you have status... this is true of todays society too :). UPDATE- people are commiting suicide to show they have givien up on society during economic crisis e.g. in from of houses of parliament etc.

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Its positive and desirable to apply logic and methods to natural sciences to study society. By doing this we can gain objective knowledge. This will provide the basis for solving social problems and achieving progress. KEY FEATURES- Nature is made up of objective, observable, physical facts which are external to our minds and which exist whether or not we want them to. Similarly society is an objective, factual reality just like the physical world. Reality isnt random but patterned. We can observe these, think of trends and therefore predict the future. DURKHEIM= real laws are discoverable, sociologists can discover laws that determine how society works. This is aka induction which involves accumulating data about the world through careful observation. As knowledge grows we begin to see general patterns. Positivists believe in verificationism

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We can develop a theory that explains all our observations so far. After this process is repeated, we can claim our theory to be true. For positivists, the patterns we observe whether in nature or in society can all be explained in some way (cwause and effect). Positivists therefore want to see what is causing the patterns they are seeing. They aim to produce hypotheses or scientific statements about how science works. these can be used to predict the future and guide social policies. They prefer structural explanations of social phenomena. This is because they see society and its structure as social facts outside of us that shape our behaviour patterns. OBJECTIVE QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH- Positivists believe that sociology should take the experimental method as this allows the investigator to test a hypothesis in the most systematic and controlled way possible. Experiments involve examining each possible casual factor to observe its effect while simultaneously excluding all other factors. Positivists use quantitative data to uncover and measure patterns of behaviour. Researchers should be detached and objective. Their emotions shouldn't affect results of the study. we should avoid the use of leading questions.

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They don't believe that sociology should model itself on the natural sciences. They say that sociology is meaningful social action and that we can only understand it by successfully interpretting the meanings and motives of those involved.Sociology isnt a science because science only deals with laws of cause and effect and not human meanings. Because of this many interpretavists completely reject the use of natural science methods and explanations as a model for sociology. MEAD= humans dont just react to stimuli they tend to consider it then think about a reaction. The job of sociology is to uncover meanings. To discover people give to their actions, we need to see the world from their viewpoint. this involves abandoning detachment to those involved... we must gain verstehen

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BAECHLER= tries to examine emotions jsut before suicide. 1) ESCAPIST SUICIDE= when life becomes intolerable. 2) AGGRESSIVE SUICIDE= make others feel guilty for something 3) OBLATIVE SUICIDE= trying to improve life e.g. in sects this happens a lot. 4) LUDIC SUICIDE= gambling with life e.g. playing chicken with motorbikes... you will never know whether it was on purpose or not.

DOUGLAS= we aren't controlled by outside forces we make our own decisions . Stats dont mean anything and have very little meaning... all they are is opinion as they aren't how many are actually suicides but what is recorded by the coroner as suicide. However this would never be possible as we can't find out the final thoughts of the individual before suicide. Families and others around tend to reject the theory that the individual commited suicide. By looking at the indvidual's life we can gain an almost exact view of what they were life, state of mind etc. EVAL= coroners do this anyway! DURKHEIM- trends tend to happen globally not just individually. Also Douglas keeps contradicting himself one minute he says we must include family then he says families lie!

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Atkinson (Ethnomethodological View)

They argue that social reality is simply a social construct of its members. Its a sociologists job to uncover knowledge and make sense of it. He rejects Douglas' view that we can know the real rates of suicide as this is impossible. All we can e study is how people make sense of society (EVAL can we really even do that?) This means HOW a death such as suicide is classified. Stats are merely interpretations- so we can only study how the stats were constructed. He therefore focusses on how coroners categorise deaths. He uses a variet yof methods including qual and quan methods. From this research he concluded that coroners have a common sense theory about a typical suicide built up from past cases e.g. clothes neatly folded up on a bench next to a death scene tends to indicate that it was a suicide. If this is correct then it poses tonnes of problems e.g. if stats used by Durkheim were treated as pure fact than all he did was use the theory of teh coroner as fact. EVAL- HINDESS= This approach is self- defeating. If all we have is interpretations of the world then that means that ethnomethodolgical perspective is merely an opinion too. If so there is no good reason to actually accept their findings as fact

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Realist Approach- Taylor

Society consists of the unobservable and the observable. There are definately visible patterns but realistically you can't just accept them as fact like Durkheim. He studied deaths that occured under trains. there were 32 cases in the space of 12 months none of them had a motive to commit suicide. yet 17 of them were classed as suicide. 5 were classed as accidental and 10 were open verdicts. He used methods that coroners used instead of just accepting it as fact. He identified patterns such as mental illness, family problems etc are included. Like Douglas, he notices the coroners were influenced by family/ friends report. but if the person lived alone and the person giving the statement wasnt that close to them, the verdict of suicide was more likely to be giving. He believes that we can classify death correctly. We can discover the underlying structures and causal processes and therefore find the COD. Like Durkheim, he tries to classify suicides. 1) SUBMISSIVE- no futuire in this life. 2) THANATATION- uncertain of what others think and uncertain about themselves. 3) SACRIFICE- certain about thoughts and opinions and believe that only way to improve things is through suicide.  4) APPEAL- uncertain about otherse so therefore commit suicide to stop the uncertainty. Taylor also thinks that its good to study unsuccessful suicides. EVAL- good to nring 100 yrs of sociology together without dismissing parts. However, this is only his view so can tbe taken as fact. He had a very small sample of 32 and only used london. But he does have useful theory that explains observed patterns of suicide

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Up to date conclusion

There are more fundamentalists so therefore more suicide bombers. this is similar to Durkheim's Altruistic suicide.

Tibetan monks are setting fire to themselves to save their country and stand together.

Asian WOmen are commting suicide as tehy give up due to strict family structures. this is similar to Durkheim's Fatalistic Suicide

More sect suicides like the one in wales where 10's of children died within the space of 2 weeks. they all know each other and lived close together. it was later found that they had all joined a group on the internet.

The media may create a phenomena in commiting suicide

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Stephanie Watts


you spelt interpretivist wrong

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