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  The sociologist Émile Durkheim believed that suicide rates and different types of social context are related. Durkheim attributed the rate of suicide to the level of social integration (the extent to which individuals have adopted the dominant social values and ideas) in a given society. Using official statistics he first eliminated various environmental and psychological factors previously proposed as explaining suicide. He then proposed four distinctive types of suicide: egoistic, altruistic, anomic and fatalistic, each corresponding to a particular condition of society.

A major criticism of Durkheim\'s theory, and the use of official statistics in particular, has been made by J.B. Douglas. Douglas demonstrates that official statistics are inaccurate and biased in ways which support Durkheim\'s case. For example, highly integrated groups may be more likely than loosely integrated groups to conceal suicides by ensuring that other causes of death are recorded. Suicide statistics are socially constructed and a whole range of factors can influence whether a death is interpreted and labelled as a suicide.

More recently, however, it has been demonstrated that regularities in the incidence of suicide recur across cultures, for example, among the widowed and divorced, among the unmarried and childless; official statistics then may not be quite as unreliable as Douglas has suggested. DA

See also anomie; culture; internalization; positivism; social construction of reality; social fact; social/sociological problem; socialization; society; structuralism; structure; structure-agency debate; symbolic interactionism; understanding.Further reading J.M. Atkinson, Discovering Suicide; , J.B. Douglas, The Social Meanings of Suicide; , Émile Durkheim, Suicide: a Study in Sociology (1897).



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