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Emile Durkjeim and Teenage Suicide

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Emile Durkheim and Teenage Suicide

I chose to write about Durkheim's theories on suicide. Although I do not completely agree with all of them, I will discuss what my text says they are and what I perceive them to be, as well as the significance of teenage suicide in today's America.

Fiction: Only "bad" kids who have the wrong friends and bad lives commit suicide. Fact: Kids who have the right friends and a bright future in front of them commit suicide. Fiction: Music, movies, and other forms of media do not influence teenagers in any way, shape, or form.

Fact: Music, movies, and other forms of media are influencing teenagers to commit suicide.

Every year more than 4,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide and another 400,000-attempt suicide; the number of suicides may be even higher because families who report the suicides as accidents or murders (Klagsburn 16) hide many suicides. "Suicide now ranks as the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24, trailing only accidents and homicides" (Worsnop 371). Over the past four decades, teenage suicide rose a staggering 200 percent (Waters 49). "Of all the suicides studied among people under 25, nearly two-thirds of them were committed with guns, teenagers who committed suicide by hanging themselves ranked second, and poisoning ranked third" (Colburn 5.)

Most of Durkheim's work on suicide was published in his third book, Suicide. It was a very important book because it was a serious effort to establish empiricism in sociology. This empiricism would provide a sociological perspective on a phenomenon that was previously psychological and individualistic.

He proposed three major forms of suicide, some with subdivisions. These three forms of suicide were egoistic, altruistic, and anomic.

There is a wide range of causes that drive teenagers to commit suicide. These causes can vary from depression to drugs to school and family pressures. According to Francine Klagsburn in her book, Too Young to Die, "No single cause can explain all suicides. Suicide is such a complex matter that it involves every aspect of life." (121) Anthropologist Edward Westermark was of the same thinking and found there are many motives including disappointed love or jealousy, illness, death of a loved one, shame, pride, anger and revenge (Choron 10). A 1986 government survey attempted to answer the question, "Is there something different [today] about the sense of despair, the sense of hopelessness...that youngsters feel suicide is a reasonable solution?" (Klagburn, 12) The survey asked experts in suicide research and prevention to list the characteristics of youth at risk of committing suicide. "Half of the respondents cited family conflicts, more than one-third mentioned physical or sexual abuse, and 17 percent named alcohol or drug abuse" (Worsnop 372). David C. Clark, director of Chicago's Center for Suicide Research and Prevention, was also quoted, citing some of the suicide triggers of an at risk teen:

In the vast majority of cases, they say, there is an underlying mental illness that is responsible? For suicide. Clark estimates that about 25 percent of youth suicides are due to depression, 25 percent to alcohol or drug abuse and about 40 percent fall into the category of conduct disorder, which involves? A long-standing pattern of lying and breaking rules At home and in school. (Trafford, 6)

With egoistic suicide, Durkheim's proposes that a person will commit suicide if they have too little interaction with society. He says that a person that does not feel like a part of society will not hold to the same norms, laws, or mores and will be more likely to elevate his value and ideas above that of the society. His studies show that people from smaller families, women more than men, and Protestants more than Catholics, will commit suicide. These are only a few of the criteria provided. For the most part, I agree with this. I would take it to believe that most people that interact with a larger group would be healthier. I only have one problem with the egoistic theory. I am confused as to whom it can apply to. Does a person have to acquire the feeling of belonging? Does a child that is deprived of interaction run a higher risk of committing suicide? The teenager who is not accepted into civic organization or fraternity group. Does the teenager run a higher risk of committing suicide after being deprived of the interaction that person has had all their life?

The next, altruistic suicide is the complete opposite of egoistic suicide. A person who commits altruistic suicide thinks that the larger group is more important than he is. All things of the larger group take precedent over the individual, which leads to suicide. We discussed "honorable" suicide under this category and one thing still bothers me from that discussion. An example of a teenager slicing his/her wrist as a form of honorable suicide for their organization. I disagree with this statement. I would argue that this is not a form of suicide but a form of training. This man or woman is trained to give his life for his cult. It is not logical to think that the person slicing their wrist thinks that they are committing suicide. Aside from that aspect, I feel that I understand this form of suicide the most. I think that being overlooked by the dominant group can lead to a person taking their own life. There are numerous times where we have seen on the news about the kid no one paid attention to taking his or her own life. In addition, teens today have trouble seeing well in the world around them. The future for most teens is hard to envision let alone feel secure about. Author Jacques Choron writes in his book, Suicide Thus the high incidence of suicide among Adolescents is explained by their inability to envision broad goals and perspectives, which make it hard for them to cope with? Difficulties, and which is due to lack of experience or faulty education.

A major cause or contributing factor is the media. Although the media may not be a direct cause of teenage suicide, it definitely influences troubled teens and adolescents. The technological advances of today allow children and teenagers to see and hear things, which can influence them to believe that suicide is a solution. Even documentaries and movies made to deter suicide somehow subtly glamorize suicide and make it look appealing. "Television, according to one theory, leads children to expect quick



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