Suicide: A Study in Sociology by Emile Durkheim

Suicide: A Study in Sociology by Emile Durkheim

Author:Emile Durkheim [Durkheim, Emile]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Education, Sociology & Social Policy, Politics & IR
Published: 2012-03-26T04:44:22+00:00


Prussia (1873–75)




17 ·


Prussia (1887–89)





Saxony (1866–70)




16 ·


Saxony (1879–90)





14 It has been necessary to classify these provinces by the number of divorced persons recorded, the number of annual divorces not having been available.


s u i c i d e

share of married over unmarried women is indeed twice as much in the former as in the latter of the two countries. Turning to peoples among whom the institution of divorce is widespread, the reverse is the case. Here woman gains by marriage and man loses; and her profit is greater in Prussia than in Baden, and greater in Saxony than in Prussia. Her profit is greatest in the country where divorces also are greatest.

Accordingly, the following law may be regarded as beyond dispute: From the standpoint of suicide, marriage is more favorable to the wife the more widely practiced divorce is; and vice versa.

From this proposition, two consequences flow.

First, only husbands contribute to the rise in the suicide rate observable in societies where divorces are frequent, wives on the contrary committing suicide more rarely than elsewhere. If, then, divorce can only develop with the improvement of woman’s moral situation, it cannot be connected with an unfavorable state of domestic society calculated to aggravate the tendency to suicide; for such an aggravation should occur in the case of the wife, as well as of the husband. A lowering of family morale cannot have such opposite effects on the two sexes: it cannot both favor the mother and seriously afflict the father.

Consequently, the cause of the phenomenon which we are studying is found in the state of marriage and not in the constitution of the family.

And indeed, marriage may very possibly act in an opposite way on husband and wife. For though they have the same object as parents, as partners their interests are different and often hostile. In certain societies therefore, some peculiarity of the matrimonial institution may very well benefit one and harm the other. All of the above tends to show that this is precisely the case with divorce.

Secondly, for the same reason we have to reject the hypothesis that this unfortunate state of marriage, with which divorces and suicides are closely connected, is simply caused by more frequent domestic disputes; for no such cause could increase the woman’s immunity, any more than could the loosening of the family tie. If, where divorce is common, the number of suicides really depends on the number of conjugal disputes, the wife should suffer from them as much as the husband. There is nothing in this situation to afford her exceptional immunity. The hypothesis is the less tenable since divorce is usually a n o m i c s u i c i d e


asked for by the wife from the husband (in France, 60 per cent of divorces and 83 per cent of separations).15 Accordingly, domestic troubles are most often attributable to the man. Then, however, it would not be clear why, in countries of frequent divorce, the husband kills himself with greater frequency


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