Using Material from Item a and Elsewhere, Assess Different Sociological Explanations of Suicide (21 Marks)

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Using material from item A and elsewhere, assess different sociological explanations of suicide (21Marks)

Various sociologists have diverse methods when researching suicide, for example, as shown in item A, Durkheim chose a positivist approach; positivists prefer a scientific explanation towards suicide, whereas, interactionists focus on the meaning of suicide to those involved and the meanings they attach to it. Both approaches have negative and positive aspects about them; they will be assessed and outlined throughout.

Durkheim used the positivist approach to explain suicide. According to him, behaviours are caused by social facts, norms and values which exercise a social constraint which surpasses an individual; he argues that suicide is a social fact. Using quantitative data from official statistics, Durkheim analysed, the suicide rates for various European countries and noted four regular patterns, said patterns showed the suicide rate for any given society remained more or less constant over time. However, when the rates of suicide did change they coincided with other changes, i.e. fell during war and rose during economic depression. Different societies had different suicide rates; within a society, the rates varied constantly between social groups, e.g. Catholics had lower rates than that of Protestants. He identified the two social facts that determined suicide as social integration, the extent to which an individual feels a sense of belonging to a group and obligation to its members and moral regulation, the extent to which an individual’s actions and desires are kept in check by society’s norms and values. Therefore, Durkheim concluded that these patterns were evidence that suicide rates couldn’t simply be the results of the motives of individuals. Durkheim’s study was supported by other positivists such as Halbwachs who claimed that Durkheim’s work was “in principle...Unassailable and undertook his own research which confirmed Durkheim’s findings,...