Sociology 1 assignment.

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Sociology 1 assignment.


Write and essay of 1,500 words commenting on at least two important changes in Irish Society over the last 40 years. Use evidence that you have studied in the readings and lectures in this course.


There have been many changes in the past 40 years. One change that I am going to focus on is the change in the role of women and the impact that this has had on the family and on society in general. I will also look at the effect that these changes have had on the rate of suicide in society. I will do this by examining the different types of suicide and the causes of suicide. I will also use a popular case study of anomic suicide to illustrate this.

The change in the role of women has primarily had an influence on the family. Traditionally women used to be the ones who had the children and cleaned the house whilst the men would work to make the money to support the family and they would also be the ones who would make all the decisions about how the money was spent in the family. In the past there was one main type of family that was, the extended family. This type of family “consists of parents and their children plus other relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. living with them or very close to each other. It usually consists of two generations, the parents, the son and his wife and their children and his unmarried brothers and sisters”. (McDonald, B. 2006. p65).

Whilst this was seen to be the norm in the past this has changed significantly in the past 40 years. Today there are many different types of family including single parent families which are formed when the parents are separated or divorced. This type of family can also be seen in cases where one partner is widowed.

Another type of family is the nuclear family. This family consists of two parents living with their own children and living separate from the extended family. Whilst it is seen by some that single parent families come under this type of family I believe that they exist separate in society for the reason that there are different impacts on a family where one person is left to control the family. These burdens can affect the financial stability of the family where one parent is left to financially provide for the family.

A different type of family which can be seen commonly in modern society is the reconstructed family. This consists of people who have been in other marriages or relationships and have separated and formed a new family. This type of family has been greatly influenced by the divorce act which was granted in 1997. This gave the right to couples to legally separate. This gave the ability to people to escape from marriages that they were not happy in. Before this people would stay in the marriage “for the sake of the family”. Between the years 1997 and 2001 “10,182 divorces were granted in the Circuit Court”. (McDonald, B. 2006. P72).This has of course influenced the emergence of the reconstructed family.

The changes that have been seen in the types of family that are now seen in society have heavily influenced the changing role of women in society. Statistics have shown that in recent years the percentage of women in the workforce has increased significantly while that of men in the workforce has been seen to have declined. “Since the 1960’s employment rates for men have gradually fallen to reach 79 per cent of the working-age population in 1999, in contrast to this the percentage of women working has risen to 69% in the same year.” (Macionis J, and Plummer K. 2005. p367). In the past for women working was not seen to be the norm. Women often worked for poorer wages and job insecurity was higher. In Ireland women were not allowed to work in job sectors such as teaching after having children. This has changed drastically in recent years as has to be seen by the above statistics. In many cases both parents work to support the family and share household tasks and minding the children. The employment equality act which was first introduced to Ireland in 1977 prohibits women to be discriminated against on the base of gender and also calls for equal pay and rights in the workplace. According to Giddens there are still inequalities within the workforce and being a working mother can influence ones career objectives. “One of the major factors influencing women’s careers is the male perception that for female employees, work comes second to having children.”( Giddens, A. 2006.p217  )

The change in the role of women combined with the changes in society has also had an effect on the rate of suicide in the country. According to the website for The Irish Association of Suiciology ( there were a total of 282 suicides in 2005. The rate of suicide amongst men is also seen to be a lot higher than that amongst women. According to IAS in 2005 there were 232 suicides amongst men compared to 50 amongst women. Men also can feel isolated when women are seen to be equal to them. Because of the equality laws for women men have been known to feel that they are no longer dominant and that their masculinity is threatened.

There are four main types of suicide. Altruistic, Anomic, Egoistic and Fatalistic. Altruistic society was seen more in the past than in modern days. An example of such type is ‘the suicide of elderly tribespeople when they became a burden in times of scarcity.’’ (Keohane, C and C, Kuhling. 2004. P56.) It is also seen in cases wherepeople kill themselves for greater good of the group.

Fatalistic suicide is also less common in modern times. It is when people kill themselves to get out of situations such as arranged marriages.Egoistic suicide is different again in that it is caused by the “extent to which people are individuated in society’’ (Keohane, C and C, Kuhling. 2004. P58). It is commonly seen amongst rock stars and celebrities.

While these three types can be seen in society it is anomic suicide which has been most prevalent in recent years. This type of suicide is most commonly seen when a person feels like they don’t belong in a group or society. It is often known to be caused when a person under-goes a sudden life change. This can be anything from the break-down of a marriage to the loss of a job. One such case where this has been seen is the case of Alan O’Doherty. This case which made the news earlier last year publicised the fact that a sudden change in society can influence an individual to commit suicide. Alan moved from his home town of Donegal to live in London. He had a good life and job in London. The young man was gay but this aside he felt like he belonged in the society in which he lived in London and had many friends and enjoyed his life in the community. While he felt like he fit in to the society he always felt homesick and longed to return home. After the breakdown of a relationship Alan did return to his small community in Buncranna and after only being there a short period of time he noticed that his life wasn’t like that of the one he had in London. He felt isolated in his community and felt like he didn’t belong because of his sexual orientation. Some months later he took his own life. Alan’s family have spoken out to spread the awareness of suicide and have told the story of Alan with the aim of helping others. It was this small community lifestyle that was the barrier to Alan living the life that he wanted and it was the transition from the big city life in London to the small rural community of Buncranna that is known to have caused him to take his own life. (Case notes taken from lecture notes by Kieran Keohane UCC 2005).

Situations like this one can also be caused by the change from mechanical to organic society. In the past there was no individualism and the society was seen to be a traditional one that was focused on mechanical solidarity. People worked the same jobs and lived standardised lives. “There were no undifferentiated divisions of labour.” (Keohane, C and C, Kuhling. 2004 p 59) People did not know any different than what they were used to.

Many factors including the media have influenced this changed into a society based on organic solidarity. That is seen in the way that people can be individual: one can work many different jobs and live their own individual life. This can be seen to leave some people feeling isolated. The change occurs quite rapidly and did leave people wondering what had happened and what caused this sudden change of lifestyle. According to Kieran Keohane “This process of change accelerated even more in the 1990’s due to the economic boom, but vestiges of traditional community co-exist uneasily and often collide with forms of life characteristic of modern society’’. (Keohane, C and C, Kuhling. 2004. P58).

I have looked at the many changes that have occurred within Irish society during the past 40 years. Whilst I have concentrated on changes within the family and also the rate of suicide I have also looked at many other issues. These have included gender equality within the work force, the changing role of women in society, the divorce rates in Ireland and also the change of the country from being one that was based on mechanical solidarity to being one that is now primarily influenced by organic solidarity.