Assess Different Sociological Explanations of Suicide

1431 Words May 20th, 2013 6 Pages
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess different sociological explanations of suicide. (21 marks)

Suicide is the intentional taking of one's own life and sociologists over the years have tried to put forward various explanations for why someone may do this. Within sociology there are many different views on suicide on the causes and explanations for it, these come from two main methodologies which are Positivists who believe that sociology is a science and they should aim to make causal laws on suicide rates, compared to Interpretivists who believe that they should look for meaning behind occurrences and certain individuals experiences before the suicide. Other perspectives also put in their views on what they believe to explain
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Obviously this was highly criticised by Structural Functionalists such as Durkheim who believed that Douglas’ work was too unscientific and that he incorrectly assumed that the nature of man is active rather than passive.

Another sociologist who takes an Interpretivist methodology is Atkinson, believing that social meaning and context is more important in finding root causes. However unlike Douglas, Atkinson is a Ethnomethodologist which has a central belief of showing that each individual use their own members methods to work out what they see. This is why Atkinson decided to study suicide, also to show how official statistics are not enough. Atkinson focused on a Coroner’s report and underwent participant observation at an office to see what methods they used to decide whether a death was suicide or not. Atkinson stated that they used ‘common sense’ theories of suicide so if certain information were to fit the theories it would be called a suicide. They would look at clues to help decided, Atkinson named a few to which he believed was important within their decisions. Firstly was there a suicide note left, this clearly is a big clue to whether or not the individual meant to kill themselves. Secondly how did the individual die as certain ways such as hanging point towards suicide, also the location of the body, usually if it is hidden away out of sight then the person is indicating that they did…