In 2016, the CDC reported American suicides’ were the second most common cause of death among children, teens and young adults aged 10 to 34 (Suicide, n.d.). Sociology provides a methodical approach to examine the extremely complex, multifaceted, and personal issue of suicide. No two people or families are exactly alike and no two suicides can be deemed identical.
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As sociologists and researchers in training we can observe and study the similarities, the patterns and risk factors that are facing teens all over the USA and the world. By looking at teen suicide through the lens of various theoretical perspectives we can gain valuable awareness, insight and understanding of the suicide pandemic. Also, these valuable theoretical perspectives can help us spot risk factors, develop programs and outreaches and even help reduce the presence of environmental factors that may contribute to high risk tendencies of suicide among teens.
Using different theoretical perspectives in the field of Sociology, one can gain a better understanding of the multifaceted and complex phenomnom of teen suicide across various times, families, and cultures. By comparing and contrasting the benefits and limitations of the three well known theoretical perspectives of Symbolic Interaction Theory, Structural Functional Theory, and Feminist Theory, I can better understand teen suicide rates, fluctuations, trends, risk factors, warnings and ways to help reduce teen suicide in my circle of influence.
The first perspective I would use to study teen suicide is the Symbolic Interaction Perspective which looks at how families perceive and define the ideas of right and wrong as well as reality (Benokriaitis, 2015). Using this theory, I would focus my studies on family ideas of right and wrong and the process of socialization.
Family beliefs are passed down to children through the process of socialization (Benokriaitis, 2015). Socialization among family members likely passes along incorrect beliefs that may directly or inadvertently encourage suicide among struggling teens. An example of this can been seen in Japan who in the 1990’s experienced an intense economic crisis resulting in soaring suicide rates in a country with already some of the highest suicide rates in the world (Otake, 2017). Since then, the country’s suicide rates have dropped steadily over time; however, suicide remains the number 1 cause of death among people starting at the young age of 15 all the way through the age of 39 (Otake, 2017). In Japan, cultural beliefs once strongly held to such a thing as an honorable suicide (Otake, 2017). This example of suicide being deemed the right thing to do among Japanese people shows that families in America may inadvertently be teaching teens that suicide has a right place and time.At the very least, teens maybe getting mixed signals about what the right choice is when it comes to handing very difficult problems in life.
The United States do not share in the history of ritualistic suicide yet nevertheless suicide remains a serious issue. It stands to reason that families as well as individuals have various belief systems that may contribute to the likelihood of suicide being viewed as a good thing at least in certain cases. Some people feel that duty and honor are far more important than living or at least they may give off that impression. Children and teens are very susceptible to the ideas and opinions of those around them. If a child grows up hearing things like why don’t you just go kill yourself or we’d all be better off with him dead a destructive idea that suicide has a time and a place can be transferred as with the Japanese’s idea of an honorable suicide. It will likely be completely subconscious but ideas are passed from parents and peers to children and teens. This learning process is what enables socialization and helps us bond together as one society, but it can be destructive also. As in the case of Nazi German where genocide became viewed as not only socially acceptable but the mandatory norm required of a good citizen.
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