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Love and Suffering: Adolescent Socialization and Suicide in Micronesia

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Title:Love and Suffering: Adolescent Socialization and Suicide in Micronesia
Authors:Rubinstein, Donald H.
LC Subject Headings:Oceania -- Periodicals.
Date Issued:1995
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation:Rubinstein, D. H. 1995. Love and Suffering: Adolescent Socialization and Suicide in Micronesia. The Contemporary Pacific 7 (1): 21-53.
Abstract:Youth suicide has reached epidemic proportion in Micronesia over the past two
decades. Suicides display remarkable cultural patterning in the typical actors,
methods, motivational themes, and precipitating social scenarios. The focus of
contemporary high rates is among young men aged fifteen to twenty-four, who
hang themselves following incidents of conflict with parents. Predominant
themes invoked in adolescent suicide accounts involve anger and suffering at the
hands of their parents, and feelings of familial rejection juxtaposed with reaffirmations
of filial love. Less frequent are themes involving personal shame over
violations of fundamental social rules. In situations of both "anger" and
"shame" suicides, the primary locus of conflict is within close family relations.
The suicides appear as an extreme form of an accustomed pattern of resolving
conflict with senior family members by withdrawing from the scene.
In this article I employ one paradigmatic case history to provide a description
of the cultural construction and social dynamics of contemporary adolescent suicide
in Micronesia. The suicide phenomenon is situated within recent changes in
the stage of adolescent male socialization in Micronesian societies. For adolescent
males of earlier generations, social involvement at the level of lineage and
clan activities provided important support. The recent rapid shift from subsistence
exchange to cash economy has severely attenuated lineage and clan structures
and, by undermining the process of adolescent socialization, has set the
stage for high rates of suicide among young men. Finally, I explore the potential
for suicide modeling and contagion among Micronesian youth.
Appears in Collections: TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1995 - Volume 7, Number 1

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