Flashcards in Suicide Deck (37):
From analysing suicide rates from various European countries over a period of several decades, what 4 patterns did Durkheim find?
1) Rates for any given society remained more or less constant over time
2) When rates did change, this coincided with other changes
3) Different societies have different rates
4) Within a society, rates vary between different social groups
What did Durkheim conclude from these patterns?
That suicide rates could not simply be the result of the motives of individuals
What does Durkheim explain the suicide rate as?
The effect of social facts or forces acting upon individuals, and in different groups and societies these forces act with different degrees of intensity resulting in different suicide rates
What did Durkheim say that the 2 social facts that determine suicide were?
1) Social integration
2) Moral regulation
Explain social integration and moral regulation
1) Social integration refers to the extent to which individuals experience a sense of belonging to a group and obligation to its members
2) Moral regulation refers to the extent to which individuals' actions and desires are kept in check by norms and values
What did Durkheim determine as the 4 types of suicide?
1) Egoistic suicide
2) Altruistic suicide
3) Anomic suicide
4) Fatalistic suicide
Explain egoistic suicide
- Occurs when there is too little social integration
- Caused by excessive individualism and lack of social ties and obligations to others
- Less common in times of war
Explain altruistic suicide
- Too much social integration
- Altruism = putting others before oneself
- Occurs where the group's interests override those of the individual
- Suicide is an obligatory self-sacrifice for the good of the group
- E.g. Hindu widows are expected to perform sati which is throwing themselves on their husband's burning funeral pyre so as to not burden the family
Explain anomic suicide
- Caused by too little moral regulation
- Occurs when society's norms become clear or are made obsolete by rapid social change
- This creates uncertainty in individuals of what is expected of them
- E.g. In times of sudden economic slump
Explain fatalistic suicide
- Caused by too much moral regulation
- Fatalism = a belief on the part f the individual that they can do nothing to affect their situation or destiny
- E.g. Slaves
What are the two most common types of suicide in modern industrial society, and why?
1) Modern industrial societies have lower levels of integration, so individuals' rights and freedom become more important than those of the group, this weakens social bonds and gives rise to egoistic suicide
2) Modern societies undergo rapid social change, which undermines accepted norms and produces anomic suicides
Which two types of suicide are most common in traditional pre-industrial society, and why?
1) Pre-industrial societies have higher levels of social integration which can lead to the group becoming more important than the individual, and this Ives rise to altruistic suicide
2) This type of society strictly regulates members' lives and imposes rigidly ascribed statuses that limit opportunities and lead to fatalistic suicides
What does Douglas think about the use of suicide statistics,mans what can they cause?
They are determined by a coroner and influenced by social actors, and this can cause a bias in the verdict reached
How does he explain what Durkheim found about the relationship between integration and suicide?
1) The finding that a high level of integration leads to low suicide rates can be explained by the fact that well integrated individuals may have friends and family that deny the death as suicide out of their own guilt
2) Socially isolated people will have no one to oppose a suicide verdict on their behalf, and so it is thought that social isolation leads to high rates of suicide
What does Douglas say that suicide statistics are based on?
The product of interactions and negotiations between those involved - family, friends, police, coroner, etc, and factors such as integration influence these negotiations
How does Douglas criticise Durkheim?
1) Criticises Durkheim for ignoring the meaning of the act for those who kill themselves and for assuming that suicide has a fixed meaning. Douglas argues that motives and meanings must be understood within their own social and cultural context
2) Rejects Durkheim's aim to categorise suicides in terms of their social causes, instead we must classify each death according to its actual meaning for the deceased.
How does Douglas propose that we understand individual meanings of suicide for the deceased?
Through the use of qualitative methods we can produce a case study based on the analysis of suicide notes and diaries, etc
What does Douglas think the advantage of using official statistics is?
It overcomes the problem of relying on official statistics and allows us to 'get behind' the labels that coroners attach to suicides
What are the 3 criticisms of Douglas?
1) There is no reason to believe that a sociologist is any better at interpreting a dead person's meanings than a coroner
2) Sainsbury and Barraclough found that rank order of suicides for immigrants to the USA correlated closely with suicide rates in their own country, even when different labellers were involved. This suggests that statistics reflect real differences between groups rather than coroners' labelling
3) Douglas is inconsistent, sometimes suggesting official statistics are the product of a coroner's opinion, yet claims we can discover real causes of suicide, however how can we do this if all we have is the coroner's opinion?
How does Atkinson criticise Douglas?
He argues that qualitative data does not allow us to discover the true meanings of suicide since it is impossible to discover the real meaning that actors give to their suicides
According to Atkinson, what is the only task for sociologists?
To discover how deaths get categorised as suicide
What does Atkinson focus on?
How coroners categorise suicides, although recognises that other social actors such as friends, family and police also play a part
How does Atkinson propose to find out how coroners categorise deaths?
Using a range of qualitative methods such as conversations with the coroner, observations of inquests and examinations of court records
What does Atkinson conclude?
That coroners have a common sense theory about the typical suicide, including the reasons for the suicide, the type of person, the mode of death, etc
What 4 things do the common sense theories lead coroners to see as relevant?
1) Suicide note
2) Mode of death
3) Location and circumstances
4) Life history
How are coroners engaged in analysing cases?
By using taken-for-granted assumptions about what constitutes a 'typical suicide', etc
How do structuralists criticise this ethnomethodologist explanation?
They see it as self-defeating. If all we have is interpretations of the social world, rather than the objective truth, then ethnomethodologists' own accounts are themselves no more than interpretations.
However, most ethnomethodologists accept this, they do no claim their interpretations are superior
Why does Taylor say that statistics cannot be taken as valid?
In a study of 32 people who had dies after being hit by London tube trains, over half the cases resulted in a verdict of suicide, even though there was no conclusive evidence of this. Coroners saw factors such as mental illness to determine suicide.
What method does Taylor use instead?
Case studies to discover the underlying structures of meaning that cause suicide
Web defining suicide, what does Taylor note? What does this show?
That not all who attempt suicide are certain that their actions will kill them, and not all who attempt suicide are aiming to die. This shows that we should look at successful and unsuccessful attempts and adopt a broader attitude of suicide.
What is the broader attitude of suicide that Taylor suggests we should adopt?
We should adopt the broader attitude of suicide as 'any deliberate act of self-damage of potential self-damage where the individual cannot be sure of survival'
What are the 4 types of suicide explained by Taylor?
1) Submissive suicides
2) Thanatation suicides
3) Sacrifice suicides
4) Appeal suicides
Which 2 types of suicide explained by Taylor are self-directed, and how do they explain suicide?
1) Submissive suicides, where the individual is certain about themselves, e.g. they may know they have no reason to go on, perhaps they have a terminal illness. The attempt is deadly serious.
2) Thanatation suicides, where the individual is uncertain about themselves, e.g. they may be uncertain about what others think of them. The attempt involves risk taking.
Which 2 types of suicide explained by Taylor are other-directed, and how do they explain suicide?
1) Sacrifice suicides, the individual is certain about others and the attempt is deadly serious. Ether they or they person have done something that makes it impossible to go on living, e.g. and affair. The attempt is a form of communication.
2) Appeal suicides, the individual is uncertain about others, they have doubts about their importance to the other and the attempt is a way to resolve this uncertainty. This attempt is a form of communication and it involves risk taking.
Evaluate Taylor's explanation of suicide.
- There is no way of knowing if these interpretations are correct
- Cases may include a combination of motives, therefore may be difficult to categorise
- Small study of case studies makes it difficult to generalise and be representative of all suicides
In what 2 ways are Taylor's types of suicide similar to Durkheim's?
1) Taylor's ideas about certainty and uncertainty parallel Durkheim's notions of fatalism and anomie respectively
2) Taylor's self-directed and other-directed suicides parallel Durkheim's egoistic and altruistic suicides respectively