Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

A Comparitive Analysis of the Effect of Domestic Institutions on Suicide Ideology

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

A Comparitive Analysis of the Effect of Domestic Institutions on Suicide Ideology

Article excerpt

Attitudes towards suicide found in the subcultures of soico-demographic groups can be important correlates of actual suicidal behavior (e.g. Stack and Wasserman, 1992). They can also be instrumental to the primary prevention of suicide (e.g. Sale et al., 1975). To the extent that attitudes predict behavior, the changing of attitudes towards suicide should reduce suicide risk.

Research on suicide attitudes has been done predominately on American samples (e.g. Domino et al., 1980; Domino, 1981; Domino et al., 1982; Droogas et al., 1982; Ginsburg, 1971; Sawyer, 1982; Stillion et al., 1986; Stack and Lester, 1991; Stack and Wasserman, 1992; Stack, Wasserman and Kposowa, 1994; Stack and Wasserman, 1995). Further, much of the previous work is based on special, nonrepresentative groups such as psychiatric patients, the clergy, mental health professionals, and students for its samples. As such, it is not clear if the results would generalize to more representative samples (e.g. Domino, 1980, 1981, 1985; Droogas et al., 1982; Stillion et al, 1986; Swain and Domino, 1985). While some of the past work is based on national probability samples (e.g. Ostheimer, 1980; Stack and Lester, 1991; Stack and Wasserman, 1992; Singh, 1979), it is unclear if the results will replicate in other industrial nations. One exception is a brief report on a cross-national survey of 258 persons spread across eight of the world's cities, which notes that there were no statistically significant differences by (unspecified) demographic subgroups in condemnation of suicide (Weis and Perry, 1975).

The present study uses large national probability samples to explore the link between marriage and family institutions and suicide ideology in a sample of a nations with quite varied institutional and cultural structures. In this fashion, it can be determined if the relationship that was documented in the U.S. (Stack and Wasserman, 1992; Stack et al., 1995) can be generalized to other nations. As Kohn (1987) points out, comparative work is necessary in the building of sociological generalizations. Without comparative work we have no way of determining if a relationship is due mainly to a particular set of socio-cultural peculiarities found in a specific nation. While the comparative method is not typical in American research methodology, it is needed for a rigorous test of American based generalization.

The present study adds to our knowledge about suicide in other ways as well. It analyzes the impact of children, a neglected concern, on suicide ideology. Second, It employs individual level data to avoid the ecological fallacy, a common problem in the sociological work on completed suicide. Third, the current investigation weighs the importance of bonds to a spouse against bonds to children in the shaping of suicide attitudes. Fourth, it weighs marriage and parenting against controls taken from competing theories of suicide such as those based on religion and socio-economic status.

Domestic Integration and Suicide

The present study draws its theoretical framework largely from discussions of the influence of domestic structures on completed suicide. A guiding assumption is that socio-demographic groups with relatively high risk of suicide will have subcultural systems of beliefs and attitudes that are relatively high in their approval of suicide. The reasonableness of this assumption is witnessed by a tendency for suicide rates and suicide attitudes to covary in a synergistic pattern (e.g. Stack and Wasserman, 1992:465).

The Durkheimian perspective on marital/family factors and suicide is part of a more encompassing model. Durkheim (1965;1966) constructed a theory based on the twin concepts of egoism (lack of integration) and anomie (lack of regulation) in order to explain the rising suicide rates in 19th century Europe. Modernization in society's cultural and institutional apparatus produced a drive towards individualism and unlimited appetites. …

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